"He Not Busy Being Born Is Busy Dying" - Bob Dylan
For most organizations, inventiveness is an acquired taste. Innovation is a cultural attribute they have to cultivate. But if we’re not aggressively managing toward innovation, we’re managing the organization toward extinction. Our days are numbered. The mortality tables look bleak for companies that score low on creativity.
“The problem is never how to get new innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out.” —Dee Hock, creator of Visa
Competitive advantage is such a fleeting thing. Giving birth to smart ideas and next generation approaches are key to our success . . . even our survival. As Bob Dylan sang, “He not busy being born is busy dying.”
So leaders and managers must shoulder a new accountability: come up with new products . . . new services . . . new ways of doing business. Don’t shrug off this duty with the idea that it belongs to the people over at R&D. Baby, it belongs to everybody.
Management, in particular, must foster a climate that’s congenial to creative effort. Considering the fact that failure is the first cousin of innovation, we need to establish a safety zone for experimentation. We’re asking people for at least some reasonable risk-taking. We’re pushing them to explore, to think and act like pioneers. The quickest way to kill their sense of adventure is to jerk their chain when they venture forth but fail. A creative spirit can’t survive if people decide that pushing the envelope is too dicey for their career future.
Critique the reward system in your outfit. If it doesn’t support innovation and creativity, redesign it to show that the organization values the pursuit of worthy new ideas. Give people positive reinforcement for bringing their imagination to work.
Also check out your hiring practices. Make sure your work group includes people who bring diverse perspectives, because innovation feeds on multiple points of view. It could be that you need to bring a few mavericks on board. Some renegades. Look for people who are a little offbeat, eccentric, and unconcerned about the organizations sacred cows.
Set goals that make your work group stretch, that literally demand new and dramatic approaches. Instead of complaining about organizational constratings or limitations, use them constructively. Let them force you away from standard operating procedures. Demanding circumstances often inspire the most clever solutions.
Just push your people to act like a startup operation. Like entrepreneurs. Challenge them to conceive novel approaches, point them toward a dramatic tomorrow, and watch the creative juices start to flow.
“WEALTH IN THE NEW REGIME FLOWS DIRECTLY FROM INNOVATION, NOT OPTIMIZATION; THAT IS, WEALTH IS NOT GAINED BY PERFECTING THE KNOWN, BUT BY IMPERFECTLY SEIZING THE UNKNOWN." —Kevin Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy