In the innovation space, too much focus is placed on methods, not enough on mindset. Tools are the methodologies, mindset is the habits. One of my colleagues recently told me he’s learned about mentality, not processes, in the time he’s spent working with me. He’s right! I can give you the methods, but they don’t matter if you don’t have the habits.
Mindset comes first, methods second
To create a culture of innovation you have to think and act different. The organizations that fail at innovation focus on neither. Rather, they believe they act – through some version of an innovation program that includes training, workshops and tools – and revert to their old ways when that fails. If they internalize that culture comes first they’d accept that mistakes are an inevitable consequence of doing something new.
Remember, avoiding mistakes is the best way to stagnate. And what established organizations wants most is to avoid them, but invention and mistakes are inseparable twins. The challenge is overcoming the need for certainty; organization’s need for certainty kills innovation. And the promise of methodologies is they reduce uncertainty. But innovation doesn’t result from well written methodologies, it’s the opposite.
Nowadays anyone’s who’s picked up a book on lean startup or design thinking believes they’re an expert in innovation. Teaching mentality is harder than selling tools. And, you just don’t give people tools and expect them to be creative; you have develop habits first.
Let me give you an example. For me, the sad part about doing innovation consulting is the disappointment people feel when they pay for tools and methods, go back to their 9 to 5 job and are hit with the reality that their employer doesn’t value new thinking; this is a culture problem.
The biggest enemy to innovation is your existing culture. You have to attack that first before focusing on tools. This is why innovation is about subtracting what stands in the way of it; not just add activities to what you already do.
Putting innovation into practice
You have to start with culture, the shared beliefs and behaviors, before focusing on methods. A better way to visualize this is the 3 P’s: Philosophy, people and processes.
- Philosophy. This is where you start, it’s about purpose. What culture do you want to create and why.
- People. Who are you, who’s a part of the culture you want to create and who will drive it.
- Processes. This is about how, what tools and practices help you execute your philosophy.
There are people who have great instincts and thinking capability, they shouldn’t be discarded. Because innovation is as much about attitude and perspective as it is about process. Most organizations focus on processes, treating people as cogs in the machine. They believe that giving people tools will save them the work of developing people’s mindsets. Even worse, sometimes they believe they already have the culture!
I’m not saying tools don’t matter, they do; mindset matters more.
Throwing methodologies at a problem won’t save you; it’s starts with culture. One that is driven by curiosity, embraces new challenges and seeks out ambiguity will develop it’s own tools to overcome challenges.