My answers to the 5 big questions on innovation

Jorge Barba 5 big questions on innovation

Recently, Business Performance Innovation Network asked me to give my thoughts to their 5 big questions on innovation. Think these questions and answers will be useful to you so here they are 🙂

How do you build organizations and cultures that embrace innovation and change?

Leaders that want to build an organization that innovates consistently must provide three things to employees: freedom, support and challenge. Those are the key ingredients needed to accelerate innovation in any environment.

In other words, you can put it like this: Have bold goals, get out of the way and reward people for trying. The last point is very important because when people see that getting rewarded for trying, not getting punished, is like a badge of honor; they will start giving a damn.

Try it, you’ll see.

What are the biggest impediments to innovation in today’s enterprise?

Innovation is as much about attitude and perspective as it is about process. So, the impediment to innovation for large organizations, today and forever, is human nature. The fear of losing what one already has is probably the most pervasive bias of all, and it reflects itself in how enterprises behave in the marketplace.

There are some forward-thinking organizations that deliberately keep biases at bay by doing specific activities that force people to expand their perspectives, experiment and try new things, and collaborate with people outside their domain. The activities themselves are not hard to do, what’s hard is accepting that you have to make time for “assumption busting” activities and that they are priceless for the long-term existence of the enterprise.

How is the innovation process changing within your company or those you work with?

I’m a proponent of organic over systematic innovation. Embracing organic change is when the mindset is being developed in a slow but deliberate process; rather than being dictated. Systematic innovation takes a more MBA approach, where the assumption is that you can manage and measure innovation. This is the approach that is sold by consultants to large organizations. I don’t believe you see a lot of breakthrough comes from systematic innovation. Heck, look at any list of the most innovative companies and most are innovators because they live the ethos of the innovator rather than dictate it.

I am also a proponent of speed, so experimenting to quickly eliminate assumptions we are making is key for me. Rapid prototyping can take many forms such as physical products, mock ups, storyboards, role playing, etc.. The point of rapid prototyping is speeding through your list of assumptions, changing and getting to “better” faster.

What technologies will drive the biggest changes over the next two years?

There are many that in combination will drive massive change across enterprises and all size of business. Specifically, I’m looking at artificial intelligence, big data, augmented reality, virtual reality, natural language processing, and speech recognition.

Why these?

Because in aggregate we will see them both in the consumer and enterprise domain; specifically in how we get stuff done, how we hire and how we collaborate.

What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?

Nike, Porsche, McLaren Automotive, Darpa, Google, Amazon, Apple, Pixar; to name a few. The reason? Simple: they have bold goals, they don’t compromise on their values, and they constantly push boundaries to make things radically better.