Make Innovation Simpler

by John Brooker

Make Innovation SimplerWant to make innovation simple again?

I was out riding my bike recently when I found I could not use any gear above number eight, so instead of twenty-four gears on three front cogs, I had just eight gears on one. I couldn’t fix it myself and didn’t have time to take it to the repairers so carried on using it.

I am no Bradley Wiggins (Olympic cycling gold medallist and winner of  the Tour de France) and after a couple of rides, I noticed that the lack of gears was not causing me much of a problem, apart from going down steep hills where I could not pick up as much speed.

After noticing that, I compared the enforced simplicity of my gearing with how complex innovation seems to have become.

I appreciate there are some organisations that need more sophisticated approaches, just like the Tour de France. I am also sure most organisations could cope with a simpler approach. In fact many could cope with just three gears if they had the nerve to get on the “bike”.


In the spirit of keeping it simple, here is my three gear approach to help your people innovate. Essentially, it is based on three components: Climate, Model and Tools.

Create and nurture the right climate to encourage collaboration

When you wish people to be more collaborative and creative you need to create a macro-climate within the organisation and a micro-climate within meetings.

Here are several actions you might take to make this happen:

  • Create “Flow”[1]
  • Provide Autonomy
  • Encourage Creativity
  • Allow Time for Creativity
  • Build Trust & Openness
  • Promote Playfulness and Humour
  • Foster Open Debate
  • Accept Constructive Failure
  • Make the Workplace Dynamic
  • Reduce Interpersonal Conflict
  • Enable Open Communication

For a more in-depth article about climate

Use a structured innovation model to build creative solutions that gain a “Yes! And…” response

Someone in a client company once said to me that they “have no problems getting ideas but implementing them is difficult”. That is true. However, if you use a better model to create and think through the solution prior to implementation, many of the implementation issues will disappear.

Here is my eight-stage model:

  1. Sense Opportunities
  2. Explore Opportunity
  3. Clarify Opportunity
  4. Create Propositions
  5. Hone Proposition
  6. Shape Strategy
  7. Foster Acceptance
  8. Plan Sprint Actions

You can read more about Inn8 Model Stages and Steps.

Have a comprehensive toolkit to facilitate logical and creative thinking

Many people, who are more logical and structured thinkers, think they cannot think creatively, yet they can if they use tools that help to stimulate creative ideas.

Many people, who are more creative thinkers, believe they cannot evaluate or plan implementation of their ideas. In fact, by using the available tools, they can evaluate and plan well.

You should build a tool kit of creative and structured thinking tools to use in your organisation. You can find some tools here.

Small Action

There you have an approach to help make innovation simpler in your organisation. As innovation becomes a management discipline there is a danger that people see it as the end, rather than the means. There is also the danger that it will be seen as a job for specialists rather than the whole company. That would be a shame.

Think through your innovation approach. Is it becoming too complex, too specialised? How might you make it simpler and more, dare I say it, enjoyable?

[1] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed the original concept of “flow” and explained it in his book “Flow”. (Rider; New edition 1 Aug 2002 ISBN-13: 978-0712657594)

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Be a Creative GuerrillaJohn Brooker is the Managing Director of Yes! And… Formerly, a SVP at Visa International, he developed service innovation and transformation. Today he is a meeting facilitator in Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and with multi-cultural groups. He also teaches the Open University Business School’s Master’s level module ‘Creativity, Innovation and Change’ programme.

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