There really is no progress without innovation. There might be plenty of money making, as incumbent companies exploit the status quo and optimise successes from the past but 'all things must pass', and they do. It is only a matter of time before the certainties of today are replaced by the unknowns of tomorrow, and the future belongs to the innovators.
Annoyingly, innovation is surprisingly hard. The future is often taxed to protect the present. Whilst Haraclitus was right about 'the only constant is change' such a reality is often discombobulating and resisted. How then do you push on and invent the future you want, rather than have it imposed on you? My answer: find someone who can answer these 20 questions.
- How do you define innovation? And how is this different from day to day management?
- What are the most important ingredients for successful innovation at a company?
- Where do you find innovative ideas? Where does innovation come from? How do you allow ideas to spread through your company. Particularly in large companies how does one surface ideas, whether from employees, suppliers or customers?
- What is the role of senior leadership and managers? Do managers think of themselves as innovators? If not, why not?
- If asked, which current management practice does the most to stifle or kill creativity and innovation within the organisation?
- How important is culture? Is innovation the prerogative of small companies or ‘can elephants dance’?
- How are employees encouraged or incentivised to be creative and innovative? Given that innovations often fail why would good people go there. As success has many parents but failure is an orphan aren’t there easier ways to make money or progress up the ranks?
- How do you embed innovation within your company; how does it sit alongside maximising the efficiency of current operations? Are they not incompatible?
- What is the best process and tools to put in place to involve all the important parties and drive innovation across the enterprise from concept to customer?
- How do you find and build the people and capabilities/competencies required to be successful in innovation?
- What are the characteristics of the best innovation leaders at different levels of the organisation and how do we recognise and reward them?
- What does the process of innovation look like in your company?
- Is innovation just about products and services or should it encompass business models. Should innovation be sustaining or disruptive. Should the same teams work on both?
- Innovators want to innovate but successful businesses often resist change. How do you overcome this tension? How much freedom and power should the innovation team have?
- Is innovation a separate entity within a company and if so where does it sit in the organisation chart. Who does innovation report to?
- How do you know when to cull a new idea? Defining success can be tricky - sometimes good ideas need nurturing before succeeding. Are there metrics to help you spot the duds against the slow burners?
- Constant learning is often the catalyst for innovative ideas; how does one build a culture of learning throughout a company?
- What’s the “tomorrow problem” your company needs to begin working on today?
- What technologies, business models and trends will drive the biggest innovations in real estate?
- It’s 2025 and we’re the best company to work for in the world: What two things did we do to earn this award?
What you need are good answers to these questions. With them, the work can start:)