Anand is an innovator, futurist, transformation expert, award-winning author, and keynote speaker specializing in areas that intersect with technology and people. In this article, Anand discusses building a practical innovation ecosystem.
Whenever we think of innovation, people’s idea is hackathons, some smart idea submission forms on your intranet, light bulb posters, and things like that. But we need to think of things that we can practically do.
The first law of bad management is “If something doesn’t work, do more.” Servers are getting overloaded; add more servers; more customers are complaining; add more people to the team so they can reply to the customers. This is a problem-solving approach.
Typically, innovation is about solving problems. Nothing wrong with it. We always have to solve problems. But when we’re talking about strategic innovation or small innovation, no matter what you call it, you have to think beyond solving that problem. Problem-solving helps you grow your business. But we have to think of transformative innovation. Transformative innovation talks about eliminating the problem from its root so that you will not find the problem and will not have to fix it.
How do you build that ecosystem that gives us transformative innovation ideas, approaches, and solutions?
Three critical components of practical innovation
Develop the right mindset – Develop the right mindset, mental models, and thinking patterns.
We have many training and coaching programs and workshops where people are taught to think differently. Part of these workshops is also going to customers and end users to understand the product’s features. If I am going to have a system in a server room, I will need to go to the server room and observe how people work there, the processes, etc. LG Electronics imbibed and inculcated this in every single person.
Encouraging experiments – With the right mindset, you have ideas to eliminate a problem. You cannot just implement them and hope for the best. You have to try them. Tying things is resource intensive. Resources may be used without any yield. At LG Electronics, about 3% to 5% of the budget is allocated for these experiments. These experiments are called fast reengineering projects or smart projects.
Maintain execution focus – Once you try an idea and prove that it works, you have to maintain focus and execute it impeccably. This is not particularly true about innovation; it’s true about everything. But you often start well, but by the time you reach the end, it loses its glamor. 50% of the projects start to fade off. This is where governance comes in. You must ensure that you will work on it until its logical conclusion.
To conclude, technology is not everything. Technology is a tool for us. We sometimes get in love with it so much that we forget. Our customers and end users are humans. So, use technology judiciously, consciously, and appropriately. The intent matters not just your intent but what the customer is trying to do and what your user is trying to achieve. They’re not trying to use your system; they’re trying to do something else. They want to use your system to get their transformative innovation. Innovation is an outcome; it is not a process. It’s not something you do. Innovation is the outcome when you think, experiment, and execute seamlessly and impeccably.