What keeps successful organisations going? What leads them to conquer new markets, keeps them from falling into a rut? You’ve probably asked yourself this question a few times before (and if you haven’t, you definitely should have). The answer is certainly not easy or simple, but there’s one thing every answer should include in at least some form: Innovation. At first glance this seems like a huge, abstract concept with little to go on concretely. Once you break it down however, it becomes clearer and clearer, and there are some great ideas out there to make your organisation more innovative.
In this post we’re going to talk a lot about an “innovation formula” developed Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Timble in 2010. Govindarajan and Trimble have spent the last ten years researching innovation, making them one of the most respected experts in this area. Are you ready for their formula? It looks like this:
‘Innovation’ = ‘Idea’ + ‘Leader’ + ‘Team’ + ‘Plan’.
That’s already a bit more focused, but you’re still going to have a lot of questions about the different parts of the equation. But don’t worry, answering those question is exactly what this post is all about. So let’s start with the first item on the list: The Idea.
Of course every innovation first and foremost needs an idea. Something new, something you want to add to the world. So how do you come up with an idea? One of your greatest tools here is without a doubt the Basadur Simplex Creative Problem Solving process (which we have talked about extensively in this post). Your idea is what your innovation will be based around, but on its own, it means nothing – you still need turn it into reality after all. And that’s where our next variables come into play.
This one is very interesting, because our experiences are a little bit different from what Govinarajan and Timble have to say. They stress the importance of a strong leader pushing the innovation forward, but we have also seen collective leadership with no clear hierarchy to work very well – and sometimes even better. However, we all can agree on some form of leadership being crucial to any innovation process.
What would a leader be without his or her team? No one person can push through an entire project just by himself. Even if that leader had all the time in the world, he wouldn’t be a master in all the different skills that it requires. Assembling a team is all about finding people that complement each other, whose individual strengths and weaknesses fit together to create something much more than just the sum of its parts. A great guide in this respect is the Basadur Creative Problem Solving Profile (you guessed it, put together by the same people that created the Simplex model we’ve mentioned above). It classifies people by four different types of skills:
– The Generator
– The Conceptualizer
– The Optimizer
– The Implementer
Ideally, you want to have people of every one of those types in your team in order to most effectively work together as a unit.
The final piece of the puzzle is your plan. It pins down concretely what must be done, and how it should be done. Often, this plan is also called a strategy – so you might want to check out what we have written about those. Our innovation formula here works with an approach that is much more in line with the Design School of strategies – a well-planned strategy made in advance.
Innovation sometime conjures up an image of pure creativity and unpredictability, while it is everything but. You do need some sort of a novelty, an idea, but 90% of any innovation process is simply hard work guided by an effective system. And using the innovation formula by Govinarajan and Timble will help you massively in setting up such a system.