If you speak at conferences about innovation you’ll almost always encounter some frustrated people.
They approach you at the end, or contact you a few days later. They often have one thing in common.
They, and others like them , have ideas that are being shut down because they don’t fit the system.
They tend not to be the loud ones, the self styled boat rockers and rebels at work, but just people who are quietly trying to make a difference.
They see a refusal to identify, create, embrace, explore, develop or adopt new ideas. They see missed opportunities for new products, better processes or different ways of doing business.
This week we spoke at an event at Alder Hey Innovation Hub on the subject of fast tracked innovation.
- The NHS is 68 years old.
- Bromford is 53.
That means we have at least two things in common.
- We’re successful. Our vision and purpose has remained relevant across decades.
- We’re in danger. The average lifespan of a company listed in the S&P 500 index has decreased by more than 50 years in the last century, from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today. We shouldn’t really still be here.
If you’ve been around that long you’re going to have a huge amount of organisational wisdom. You’ve become very good at what you do.
However – older companies are really bad at innovation because they’re designed to be bad at innovation.
Older companies are designed to execute on delivery — not engage in discovery.
And this is where all those frustrated people come from. They are explorers locked in a system focused on repetition.
Smart organisations know that innovation has to happen by design. They know that you have to build non-linear processes that encourage purposeful deviation.
It’s project unmanagement.
Project management as in methodologies like PRINCE2 can be anti-innovation. It’s about defined steps to make something logical and organised. PRINCE actually stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments.
Let’s be clear – I’m not dismissing the importance of controlled projects. However my experience of talking to a lot of frustrated people is that organisations are confusing control and exploration.
As I heard this week – “I just keep getting told to take my idea to the project team, but they don’t seem to get it”.
No. They wouldn’t get it.
NEVER take an idea to a project management team unless you want it come back with a risk log, a contingency plan and a Gantt chart.
As this diagram from Tom Hartland shows – there’s a whole fuzzy front end to deal with first.
The conundrum we face is that the very processes that drive toward a profitable, efficient operation tend to get in the way of developing innovations that can actually transform the business.
Until organisations invest in a test and learn framework to accompany their efficiency models they are doomed to disappoint a lot of employees and see ideas go nowhere.
Creating a safe place for intrapreneurs to test ideas and gain supporting evidence so they can justify requesting funds is now necessary whatever the size of your company.
What’s the ROI?
A better question to ask is how you measure the return for an idea that does not yet exist.
The latest Lab slide deck is below. Thanks to Tom for the awesome illustrations.
5 thoughts on “How To Fast Track Innovation”
Great post! Another point to note is how due to massively changing technology (both in the world of software and hardware) the cost of innovation is miniscule.
The NHS in particular seems to still be in a mindset that’s several decades old. It no longer costs millions of pounds to have an idea, test the hypothesis and get some data on whether to role it out. All you need is a few thousand pounds and some dedicated personal to see if they can create something of value. Particularly in the NHS there are some really fantastic people with a lot of drive and ambition who are just told “no” over and over. It’s a real shame and is already having a massive impact on the quality of care patients are receiving.
Thank you Rakeeb – that’s a very thoughtful comment.
The NHS – as one of the biggest employers on earth – should be modelling this stuff to be honest. I know that’s a major challenge – but as you say there are a lot of great people there. The skills and resources are available.
There’s a lot of people don’t understand Prince II and there’s a lot of people don’t understand the fuzziness of innovation. That doesn’t mean there aren’t compatibilities.
There are Dave. But mixing the two at the wrong point can be disastrous. We’ve seen projects fail as things have entered a Prince II methodology with the exploration stage fully completed