Five Ways to Re-Ignite Innovation

by Stefan Lindegaard

Five Ways to Re-Ignite InnovationA journalist recently asked me this question: What are the five things the CEO of a once-innovative company must do to “innovate innovation” (or innovate the innovation process) and get the creativity process humming again?

These were my replies:

  1. Get rid of the reasons why it does not work in the first place. Identify the stumbling blocks and remove them. This includes processes as well as people – and in particular the executives that failed on this.
  2. Commit to innovation. A key reason for failure is the lack of real commitment. Innovation is difficult, but it is definitely going to fail when executives do not fully commit to the initiatives that are started. Unfortunately, I see this too often with (open) innovation.
  3. Communication is key. You only get one and a half chance to create an innovation culture and thus make innovation work. If you have failed once, then it will be much more difficult the next time you want to implement innovation efforts. The stakeholders in such a process will monitor your actions closely and clear communication on what you intend to do becomes critical.
  4. Action speaks louder than words. Communication is key, but it is even more important to walk the talk. One example is middle-management that often hinders innovation just by doing their job. They are told to deliver on very specific terms and they do not want to be disturbed. If innovation efforts require resources they need to get their job done, they are disturbed and conflicts arise. Situations like this need to be solved from the top down.
  5. A strong innovation culture requires a strong networking culture. This is becoming even more important as the open innovation movement really takes hold. Executives need to understand that networking does not happen by itself. You need a strategy that sets directions, you need to develop the skills of your employees and give them the time it takes to develop and nurture relationships.

The journalist also asked if I could give an example or two of a company or CEO that has succeeded in innovating innovation.

I like how John Conoley, the CEO of Psion, which makes handheld rugged computers talk about their open innovation efforts. They want to do this to become competitively unpredictable. This is a great goal and I like how he realizes that this requires a trial and error approach. He once said something like this: Do we know all that needs to get done? Definitely not. That is why it is my job to create the conditions for this to succeed.

P&G is the poster boy of open innovation, which definitely is about innovating innovation. 10 years ago, then CEO A.G. Lafley started their journey and it is highly recommendable to look into the many great articles on how he and P&G turned this into a huge success.

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Stegan LindegaardStefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation

No comments

  1. Stefan,

    As always I share your comments with a litle twist, you may recall an article in Harvard Business Review with the title “Are You a Strategist or Just a Manager” that Prof Hinterhuber and other gentleman wrote he was at Insbruck at the time but now both at Saint Gallen Universitat in Der Schweiss.

    The twist that I have is a CEO has to ask himself/herself the question Am I an innovator or just a Manager? If they can not answer with full conviction in the affirmative, then the process to be an innovative company is going to be very ardous and the chances to succeed are low. If the upper etchelon of the organization doesn’t have Innovation in their DNA then you are doom to fail

    WhI think that you need to change the order of your response.
    The first point has always to be Commit to Innovation, anything short of that is pure “lips service” and will never have the power to transfor the organization period. Innovation requires the allocation of human capital and resources and also as you pointed out the removal of all barriers found including Sr Managers.

    With that minor change I will agree 100% with what you wrote and in the order that you placed.


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