Anyone can innovate, but not everyone can

Yes, anyone can. But now everyone can. Here’s why…

It is very simple. First of all, to innovate, you need skill combined with will. The skills needed are very straight forward, to begin you need to identify a problem, understand it and then have access to people and information that can help you solve the problem.

And, that is just the beginning…

Anyone can identify problems, but not everyone has the patience and will to dig deeper, and keep going. And, not many cultivate an idea network which constantly feeds them ideas and insights, therefore not everyone has access to diverse knowledge sources to help them see beyond the obvious. Which is critical.

Also, just because you’re creative doesn’t mean anything. I know, and work with, creative people who have no discipline (there are exceptions). The ones who live in their dreams need a helping hand in making things happen. This is where will comes in. And, with will comes guts and daring.

This is where the bottleneck is. So you see, it isn’t as simple as asking everyone for ideas and them letting them roll with whatever is on their mind. Unless the culture exists, set by the leader, don’t expect anyone to take risks and experiment.

So what is a company to do?

You have two options:

  1. Walk the talk. Easier said than done, but if you are an un-innovative traditional company (which most are), then you must provide your people with innovation skills. Heck, if you are the leader of the organization, set the example and get the skills with them. Be the example.
  2. Get out of zombie mode. If you’re a company that started with an innovation, but has lost track, you need to go back to your roots. Most likely, business-as-usual has set in and your organization needs a reset to shake it out of zombie mode. Ask yourself: What is our reason for existing? Why do our customers value us? What difference are we making? If we started today, would we do it differently?

If we view value creation as critical, which you should, then innovation is the only way to achieve it. And, if you’ve been in zombie mode delivering more of the same, you need to do a 360′. The path to transformation is not for the faint of heart, it is a critical.

Warning signs are right in front of you

Companies, for the most part, treat new capabilities as nothing more than add-ons to the current structure. This is a warning sign, because to create new capability, such as innovation, you need to stop doing other things. You need to shed some skin. You need to lose some weight if you will.

The difference between new ventures and incumbents, is how they approach value creation. To the incumbent, value creation means getting more pay-off out of what they already have. To the new venture, it means either doing things better or differently than what currently exists. Of course, this path is not without its challenges.

The point: Anyone can innovate if they are willing to change their ways, but no everyone can because change isn’t a priority. It is something that happens, and most are more than comfortable waiting until they have to. Those with guts are bound for glory. Take the first step, shed some skin to make way for new capabilities. That is how you start the transformation.

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