In my job, there is something new to learn, and something new to create every day. I am constantly surrounded by great ideas and cool brainstorming. Exchange of opinions, presentation of great ideas, and lots of laugh. This is basically what we call here the “communicate bright ideas” philosophy. Bright ideas are innovative ideas and do not come suddenly, but one step at a time that generates innovation. Innovation is one of the life trigger: try to look around you, and take a moment to think about your daily life, and you will realise that we are here and now because of innovation, because someone innovated in the past, because someone created and is creating bright ideas.
I have my own definition of innovation, and I want to share it with you: innovation is the activity of altering the order of things, to do new things. Today, competition between companies, agencies and associations is no longer playing on efficiency or reduced production costs, but on innovation. No one is immune from the urge to follow innovation. Small businesses are kind of obliged to keep up and to innovate to continue to be competitive and emerge in the competitors’ arena. The same with associations and networks that need to stand up in front of their “antagonists” representing other interests and another rights protection. Big companies, on the other hand, are sometimes weaker, as most of them are relaxed in their positioning, not thinking that being too relaxed will inevitably ends in loosing. In a market where competition between companies is playing innovation, it is not enough only to set up an effective internal planning. Complexity imposes flexibility to cope with unforeseen events that by their very nature are unplannable. Changes happen anywhere, continuously. There are only few companies able to handle changes effectively, succeeding in innovating, not sticking to obsolete schemes and no longer producing the expected results.
Sometimes innovation can drastically change the company, its brands, its organisation, and even its core business! Sometimes it generates revolutionary ideas, that affect a whole industry sector or policy field. Giving that I am surrounded by innovation and that creating innovation is the key of progress, I decided to ask myself: what have those companies that have the power to innovate? And, finally, where does innovation come from?
There are 4 steps to innovate.
Innovation requires firstly a substantial change in business organisation. It seems a bit of a paradox: you need a very well organise internal structure and systematic processes, but at the same time, you need the ability to improvise and respond instantly to new stimuli and situations. This is possible only if the working environment allows people to think and work together dynamically, with a sharing of competences and field, but always keeping a clear framework of responsibilities.
Innovation, in fact, comes from a particular state of mind: sharing, caring, analysis, openness and that particular ability to take decisions when the time come.
If we want to list those crucial ingredients to innovate, there are four that are unmissable:
- COLLABORATION. Innovation does not originate out of an isolated genius. The best innovative ideas find their roots in the interaction of more people with different ideas and experiences. Dialogue and ongoing discussion, confrontation between proposals and points of view: these create what I like to call “a creative friction” from which small and big bright ideas can emerge. This is a fact: the result of collective work among more people who have different talents and views. Surely, one can generate a rough innovative concept, but without confronting it with other people having different skills and experiences, it will stay a great rough concept, that will never see the light (in other words, it will never become a bright idea!).
- DYNAMIC STRUCTURE. This is a particular “hot” topic. Nowadays, all companies are tendentially against rigid work environment with imposed rules, as this does not stimulate innovation. However, in an environment where there are no predefined patterns to follow, it is very often difficult to govern creativity. There should be a balance, as everything in life. The intervention from the “top” should serve to inspire and coordinate the activities, so that all goes in the right direction. A clear definition of responsibilities is crucial to understand who can take the decisions in the sudden event of a change. The collaboration environment and sharing culture will do the rest.
- MAKING MISTAKES. Yes, you are reading it. One of the secret ingredient to innovate is (and must be) to make mistakes. Does it sound absurd to believe? Well, innovation comes from experimenting. Experimenting means trying. Try, learn, modify and try again, until you find the right solution. As you are going to do mistakes, you must be ready to govern them, not looking at them as failures, nor panicking, nor starting to point the finger for a responsibility inquisition.
- RECONCILING. Innovative ideas are creative solutions to a problem. The brighter ideas are those capable of combining even opposing ideas. Reconciling is a key concept in law, that I find more than valuable within the innovation dynamic. In fact, how could you choose if the right of a child is more important than the rights of old people? How could you choose if the right of workers is more important than the right of young entrepreneurs? This is when the reconciling comes into picture: all rights are equally important, it is just a question to see how to balance them together. It is not about compromising, it is about combining. At the same level, an integrative approach that combines antithetic proposals might seem counterproductive, but if the combination is clever, it will generate the best innovative idea.
- DYNAMIC MANAGEMENT. Dynamic internal management is the first goal a manager or a secretary general should fix, in order to face new problems that require creative solutions and a more “lateral” thinking. There are several examples of people who have been able to put in place really innovative internal organisations. They are not authoritarian leaders or mentors who like to show-off, but leaders who have managed to surround themselves with the right attitudes, motivated and eager for inspiration to be captured and transformed into opportunities. A leader who can lead his team toward innovation is the one that stimulates collaboration and leaves room for the individual’s ability to solve problems collectively. These people are at the head of the group to give directions, and not orders, to manage time and resources and not to waste these. Innovation leaders are able to manage their work creatively and dynamically and to develop an environment where people are eager to share. One of the critical ingredient for success is to have one person, that does not hesitate to compare the various points of view, stimulate continuous dialogue, listen to needs of the colleagues, bring out ideas of individuals, support experimentation with an eye on the budget, time and resources and finally being able to improvise when needed.
Finally, our question: where does innovation come from?
The innovative process is unpredictable, there are no planned steps. It is possible to build a rich working environment of innovative ideas: continuous ideas emerge from moments of shared leisure, stimulating readings, events, productive talk, and debates on various topics. Innovation arises from the chaos generated by relationships, comparisons, and ideas that can emerge at any time. Innovation comes out of chaos, through a personality capable of managing that chaos and directing it to a shared purpose.
Ready to innovate? Let us know what you think and how your innovation process work!