There’s a lot of talk about innovation these days. Much of it is academic and lacks practical application. Here are three important tactics from my work helping companies become more innovative.
- Focus more on the work environment than on finding highly innovative people. The reason? If the environment and management are not conducive to innovation, innovation simply won’t happen, even with star innovators. They’ll feel stifled, frustrated, and then probably leave for a better environment. So the first key is to create an environment where innovation is valued and where management provides the freedom to fail. Any environment where people are highly defensive, blaming others, and getting micro-managed, will not be innovative.
- Reward behaviors, not results. It may be counterintuitive, but with innovation don’t incent results; instead, reward behaviors. Highlight people who are innovating — make them role models, let others see successful examples. Consider celebrating the best ideas that didn’t work.
- Fail fast. Use prototyping. Never ever pick one idea, invest heavily in fully developing it and then launch it. That’s a proven way to lose your shirt. Instead move forward a few ideas then they are undeveloped, but with good potential. Run with them and get each one to grow or fail quickly. That way good ideas can grow, but you limit both risk and cost.