1. It’s about DOING. Innovation is not a noun, it’s a verb. It’s not about flow charts, clever Venn diagrams, hypothesizing and numerous rounds of discussion in the conference room. Innovation is about doing stuff. It’s about looking (with your own eyes) for gaps, needs, holes and business opportunities – and then creating, designing and making real solutions to them.
2. Innovation is about PEOPLE. Actual people. Not the ones in focus group suites who answer questions about you and your products. It’s the ones whose homes you go into, the ones that you listen to, the ones that you quietly watch preparing their breakfast and going about their day that generate ideas for you and your team. These are the people that you should ask for feedback, and these are the people you should credit for helping you get there when you do.
3. FAILURE is important too. You are going to get it wrong a whole lot before you get it right. These days we live in a ‘beta’ culture, where nothing is absolute any more; where the next, improved version is waiting for our feedback before it gets improved and iterated upon. The same is true of innovation. Spending years (and a fortune) perfecting it probably means that someone else will beat you to it. Prototype it fast and cheaply, put it out there and ask for feedback. When you get it, add it to the mix, iterate again and keep on going until it works. 85% is the new 100% when it comes to perfection.
4. COLLABORATION is key. It’s about everyone chipping in and doing their bit, building things together and all getting the credit for the whole. Mashing together skill-sets and interests makes for a more interesting team dynamic, and for a better end result. From my experience, the grumpy guy in R&D is usually grumpy because no one ever asks him to play.
5. In the end, innovation simply comes down to BRAVERY. You’re either going to leap into the void or you’re not. There are no guarantees, no sure-wins and no secret Celestine Prophecy ways to add up the numbers to create a sure-win formula. You just have to be brave. Try it.