5 truths about innovation

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Goodbye oil, make room for innovation! Innovation is like the new gold, startups swear by it, tech-guru’s preach it, politicians aspire it and the traditional companies are desperately trying to keep up. But being innovative and making a real change is no walk in the park. At Bagaar we try to guide our clients on a daily basis towards actionable innovation through technological solutions and we’ve learned a lot about the myths, truths, pitfalls and red flags to keep in mind when trying to bring about change.

We’ve listed 5 of these insights for you. Think of them as inspirational ground rules that will save you a lot of time and desillusion when shooting for the innovation-moon.

1. Innovation-hangovers are real

Post-its flying everywhere, coffee’s by the dozen, excitement after the workshop, the team feeling like they just made plans that could take over the world. And then, the morning after, everybody back to their workstations and daily business. What to do with all those ideas, all those post-its, how to harvest from that excitement ? You feel a bit overwhelmed and unsure of how to translate all this into daily reality…

The danger of innovation events is they lack accountability and focus more on ‘epicness’ than on real impact. Don’t forget that your innovation event or workshop is a means to an end.  Before you jump into the brainstorms and methods and post-it’s,… make sure to explicitly formulate your objectives, roles, follow up and priorities.

2. Problems over solutions

If you don’t know the illness, how can you invent the medication to cure it ? You defined your goal and you want to solve a problem through innovation sessions. Great. But be sure to dig deep into the problem, own it and share your knowledge with the team dedicated to imagine possible solutions. “We have to be more innovative”,  “We need to be more like a startup” …might be a goal, but smells more like a predefined solution. What do you want to solve by being more innovative ? If you’re good at defining the problem, you might get real traction and a genius solution. “Nobody wanted an iPod before Jobs made one — sometimes, great companies solve problems that no one else can see”

3. Behavioural change is no trip to the park :

It’s like the saying “take a chill pill”. If that would exist (legally) everybody would take them and we’d all be super zen. In reality it’s real hard work, meditation, healthy food, balanced work-social life, … The same goes for change in business, you can’t hire an innovation consultant for 1 day and put up some standing desks and ping-pong tables and then expect to be super relevant, future-proof and innovative.

Organisations are made up by people, people are complex creatures and their behaviour can be very hard to change. Social dynamics, team vibes, implementation strategy, communication, … they are core traits of successful innovation.

I see this over and over. Organizations hire a consultant to run a few workshops and then expect things to change overnight.

4. Better safe than sorry (or was it the opposite ?)

Innovation sounds so sexy and easy. It’s not. But when you prepare yourself for possible headaches, for resistance internally and externally, for bureaucracy, for the hangover, … You significantly increase the odds being in your favor. You have to dare to fail and preferably fast. Try, test, iterate, test, crash, try again, … Not easy isn’t the same as impossible and a lot of pitfalls can be overcome. Be honest. Be flexible. Be realistic.

5. The inequality is as big as Kanye’s ego.

A dedicated innovation departement, free from the daily struggles, might seem the way to go, but the further your innovation endeavours find themselves from business reality, the harder it will be to bridge the implementation gap. Also don’t underestimate the importance of a strong foundation among all personnel to carry out innovative strategies. You don’t want to start a riot between the ‘creatives’ and the ‘bureaucrats’ when the real challenge is to gather them all behind your plans. In the end, the whole company needs to be on board, so be careful to make innovation an island. To make things complicated the opposite is also true. If you don’t allow a certain amount of freedom and a safe place to ideate and experiment, your innovate ideas will surely be silenced by the traditional state of affairs. Find a balance between a dedicated innovation team that is well embedded in the company, it’s people and values.

Hopefully we didn’t scare you with all these warnings, but you’ll thank us later 😉 And if you ever need a hand, setting up innovation sessions, ideation workshops, guidance in building an innovation roadmap or just some insights on what tech-solutions are out there. At Bagaar we can set you up.

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