Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How to make innovation programs successful

More lessons from The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley. In addition to the nuts-and-bolts of "doing" innovation - for which there's no cookbook anyway - Kelley addresses in a positive way things that companies need to do in order to make innovation programs work. Most of what he recommends would require changes on the part of a management team in the company. In my experience that's the hardest part of the program.

Kelley on how to make innovation work:

How to Cross-Pollinate
  1. Show and tell. The IDEO Tech Box, a collection of hundreds of promising technologies, is a systematic approach to collecting and sharing what we know.
  2. Hire people with diverse backgrounds. Sift through the job applications looking for someone who will expand your talent pool or stretch the firm's capabilities.
  3. Create multidisciplinary project rooms and create lots of space for accidental or impromptu meetings among people from disparate groups.
  4. Cross cultures and geographies. A well-blended international staff seems to cross-pollinate naturally from other cultures.
  5. Host a weekly speaker series. Nearly every week, a world-class thinker shows up to share their thoughts with us.
  6. Learn from visitors. Listen to what clients or prospective clients say about their industry, their company, their point of view.
  7. Seek out diverse projects. A broad range of client work allows you to cross-pollinate from one world to another.
How to Build Better Teams
  1. Coach more, direct less. Good executives and managers inspire their staffs to develop their confidence and skills so they can seize critical "big game" opportunities.
  2. Celebrate passing. Break teams into smaller groups of three to six to increase the number of triangles where team members can pass ideas and responsibilities.
  3. Everybody touches the ball. Find one or more responsibilities for every player.
  4. Teach overlapping skills. Create opportunities for team members to assume nontraditional roles and push forward initiatives. Find out team members' unique passions and interests and put them to work.
  5. Less dribbling, more goals. Encourage the sharing of ideas and initiatives. Solo dribbling can give a project the critical first push, but then you need teamwork to bring a project home.
How to Set Expectations -- the Seven Questions Every Company Should Ask Itself Before Launching an Innovation Program
  1. How will your company define a successful innovation program?
  2. How will your organization fund the innovation process?
  3. What corporate resources will be available to support your effort?
  4. How often will the stakeholder groups meet to review your innovation propositions?
  5. How many task teams will you sponsor yearly? How often will you put together these teams?
  6. How much logistical support will be given to your innovation staff?
  7. What rewards or recognition can people expect for participating in this program?

Good stuff. Kelley, as program director at IDEO, has obviously lived through the scenarios he describes in his book, and his recommendations for doing innovation is spot on.

I was working on a small self-initiated project to introduce some innovation concepts to a company that I worked for. One of the team members asked, "how do we get this company to think innovatively?" I said, "how does this company treat people who try to innovate?" We talked about the existing reward structure for innovators (none) and the likelihood that the person would wind up in trouble for trespassing on someone else's turf (high). It's all about the system of rewards and punishments, folks. All of the "innovation camps" in the world can't overcome an environment where innovation and design is punished.

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