Based on the last 25 years of working with local and global firms, The DeSai Group we has identified a22 Principles of Innovation. We have divided them into three categories: Organizational Success Principles, Individual and Team Success Principles and Leadership Success Principles.
When embraced, these principles create a significant difference when searching for innovations or venturing for new businesses. These principles are industry agnostic. Based on your industry, company culture, and business context, some may have more importance than others. They are all crucial in a great program design. You will need to uphold these as truths and make sure they take deep roots from day 1.
Organizational Success Principles
1. Seek innovation to alter or identify new business models. Due to the abundant number of convergences in products and industries, there is more white space today (in every sector) than ever before. Old business models are dying fast. Challenge your current business model, and perform acts of creative destruction. Work from the future back.
2. Listen for 360-degree voices. Your customers and partners are communicating their unmet needs faster and through a variety of media. Learn to listen faster. The voice of the customer alone is no longer enough. You must empathize with customers and gain new insights for their emerging and unmet needs.
3. Develop an innovation charter that defines innovation for your business. Tell everyone why it is important and what is expected of each individual at all levels as behaviors of innovation. Allow everyone to see themselves in your innovation vision.
4. Focus on developing microclimates for innovation, not the culture of innovation. This means you must find ways to make teams innovative. As more teams become innovative, culture will take care of itself.
5. Integrate innovation behaviors into your human resources performance management process.
6. C-suite and senior leaders should role-model innovation behaviors expected of others.
7. Provide basic innovation education to as many people as possible, and provide extended training to help build intrapreneurs. A good target ratio is 1% to 2% (develop 50 intrapreneurs if you have 5,000 non-factory employees).
8. Focus on fast experiments. Develop 90-day experiment plans for ideas that come from teams across the organization. Some of these ideas will surely drive powerful outcomes for your customers.
9. Define stretch challenges with a vivid vision of a future that is believable. Bigger challenges bring the best innovators forward. Real intrapreneurs are those who need stretch challenges and the freedom to test their wacky ideas—that is their currency. Liberate them to fail fast and discover ways to serve your customers. Give them candid feedback and recognize them quickly, no matter what the outcome for an experiment or a pilot. When they produce results, reward them handsomely.
10. In the beginning, provide access to off-budget funds for those who can work on challenging problems and produce fresh new solutions for growth.
11. Manage the idea bank closely—the bigger the pipeline (quantity and quality), the better the future.
Individual and Team Success Principles
12. Promote cross-functional volunteerism. Research shows that the majority of your employees bring only a portion of themselves to work. This means there is unharvested organizational potential waiting to be leashed. Allow anyone to form cross-functional teams for their great ideas. Diversity of thought is the catalyst for ideas. What any one person sees is only apart of what needs to be seen.
13. Teach people how to make what is invisible visible. No one person can see the future as clearly as a team of intrapreneurs can. Humans can see only through a lens of their past experiences. This means they never see a full reality of a situation. This thought can be humbling and, at the same time, very energizing for your best talent.
14. Learn to ask new questions before generating new ideas. Most organizations are solving the wrong problems in today’s fast-paced world.
15. Prototype fast—think design on day 1. Always promote action over analysis. Sitting in the corner office idealizing issues and solutions is less effective than two people role-playing the situation for new insights.
16. Diverge then converge. Then do it again. Then do it once more. Three cycles will improve the clarity of an idea as it moves along the innovation pipeline. The very best ideas will survive.
17. Greenhouse ideas. At the very early stages, ideas must be protected just like a seed has to be protected for a plant to grow. Never dismiss an idea. Put them all in a greenhouse and protect them so they don’t get shot down. Keep playing with them. It might take a few weeks or months before they are ready to be shared.
Leadership Success Principles
18. Show everyone how to derisk the future. Taking no risk can lead to stagnation. Not taking enough risk can create commoditization and price wars. Taking just enough risk at the right time can lead to market differentiation; that is called derisking the future.
19. Create healthy discontent. Provide stretch challenges and demand breakthrough solutions—once in a while. Most work is incremental. Your best innovators get bored easily. Often they are most sought after for all incremental challenges. Manage their intellectual capital between easy and complex assignments. This will keep them engaged and at peak levels of performance.
20. Communicate how innovation decisions will be made. Create an environment of transparency for idea generation, evaluation protocol, funding and experimentation.
21. Implement a reward and recognition policy that encourages proper behaviors for all, especially middle management.
22. Exhibit personal passion for innovative thinking and creativity.
Innovation is a large opportunity in all organizations. However, it requires persistence, a plan and engaged employees to succeed.
Your turn. Please comment below.
1. What other innovation principles would you add to the list?
2. Which category do you feel is more important than the other two categories?
3. Do you find these principles to be industry agnostic?