How to Win the Innovation Race

Change A Culture to Change the Game 

 

Why do some companies win at innovation while others fail?

How important is innovation to your growth?

 

From individual entrepreneurs to large global organizations, it seems everyone is chasing innovation. And it’s no wonder: Economists estimate that 80% of business growth comes from innovation.

So how do you develop an innovation culture powerful enough to consistently produce?

Gaia Grant and Andrew Grant are the authors of The Innovation Race: How to Change a Culture to Change the Game. They are the Directors of Tirian International Consultancy and help create innovative cultures for a range of businesses.

I recently spoke with them about global innovation.

 

The top 25% of innovative companies grow 2x as fast.

 

The Pace of Change

How is the accelerating pace of technological innovation impacting strategy and innovation?

Andrew Grant: Most people would be aware of how the pace of technological innovation has been accelerating, but conducting the research for our book The Innovation Race has really highlighted this issue and made us think about the potential impact of this manic race. We have discovered that the pace of change is now so rapid that we are in an unprecedented position. It’s like there’s an automatic speed-up setting on the treadmill that can’t be changed, and if we’re not careful the pace will just become too much to handle. Since the rate of technological innovation in particular has become exponential, a whole new leadership strategy and approach will be required. Small incremental innovations will not be enough to keep up. It will also be necessary to look ahead and anticipate the next new trends. By constantly looking for breakthrough new ideas and being ready to implement them faster, it can be possible to stay ahead of the curve. Agile new systems and structures will need to be built that can respond rapidly and effectively.

What is sustainable innovative action?

Gaia Grant: There’s no point innovating for the quick sale and short-term success. Innovation also needs to be able to be sustained over the long term. And, at a deeper level, it should be socially and environmentally responsible for the good of all people and the planet. Sustainable innovative action requires a balance of focusing on both short-term survival and long-term strategy: On the one hand the organization needs to be flexible enough to adapt to new needs and trends, but it also needs to be stable enough to be able to ride out the stormy times with a firm foundation. This will be both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity for success.

 

Authentic Connections Foster Innovation

How is empathy related to innovation?

andrew and gaia grantGaia Grant: Many people will innovate from their own perspective. That is, they will decide what they think the end user wants or what will sell the best and innovate based on this viewpoint. But being able to see from another person’s perspective is essential for innovation that connects with real needs, innovation that can make a difference in people’s lives and in the world – or purpose-driven innovation – and this requires empathy. To really embody empathy, you need to be able to see what someone else sees and, more than that, to be able to feel what someone else feels. This ensures the innovation process is human-centric and user-focused rather than innovator-centric. What’s essential to remember here is that the empathy process should not be a shallow marketing tactic but rather an authentic connection that enables the innovator to address real issues and meet real needs.

 

“Purposeful proximity in clever collaborative spaces can create hothouses for innovation.”

 

How to Create a Culture of Innovation

How do corporate leaders foster and encourage a sustainable innovation culture?

Andrew Grant: Most people assume that innovation is all about openness and freedom, but this is only part of the equation. Sustainable innovation needs to focus on balancing both openness and freedom – as well as the antithesis of these. That is, while there certainly needs to be openness and freedom, there will also need to be some focus and discipline to effectively guide the innovation process. Maintaining this delicate balancing act is at the crux of a sustainable innovation culture. The strategic leader will constantly be adjusting the balance to fit the market changes along with the organization’s current needs and future goals. It needs to be an ongoing constant strategic action, not a set-and-forget approach. It’s situational leadership.

 

4 Paradoxical Challenges to Innovation

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

 

It All Starts With Safety

Author and speaker Simon Sinek is a gifted storyteller. In this talk, Simon zeroes in on an often overlooked aspect of leadership: safety.

Simon recounts the story of an ambush and its powerful lesson. When Army Captain William Swenson and his men were under heavy fire in Afghanistan, it was all caught on camera. As Swenson is seen helping an injured soldier onto a helicopter, you see Swenson lean over and kiss the injured soldier’s forehead before running back into a battle.

 

“Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank.” –Simon Sinek

 

Build a Culture That Encourages Selflessness

Why did he do this? Sinek’s first hypothesis was that the military somehow attracted selfless people. After further investigation, Sinek concluded it was the environment that elevated behavior. The culture and values of the organization were strong enough to encourage selflessness.

We will put our lives at risk to save others because of trust. That means that trust increases safety. When we feel safe, we are empowered. When we are not acting under threat, we are able to give our best, to be more creative, to be more productive. More trust = more safety = more productivity and creativity. It’s a formula that all leaders should study.

Trust and safety may be difficult to measure, but they are essential for optimal performance.

 

“Good leaders make you feel safe.” –Simon Sinek

 

Without safety, instead of focusing on outside threats, we are turned inside. When we feel safe, we are able to work together for a common cause and fulfill the leader’s vision.

How to Build Your Creative Confidence

Boost Your Creative Confidence

David Kelley has many titles: design thinker, writer, engineer, professor and co-founder of IDEO. IDEO is responsible for such things as creating the first mouse for Apple and the thumbs up/thumbs down button on the TIVO remote. But David’s proudest work is helping people unlock their creative confidence. He wrote a fascinating book with his brother: Creative Confidence Unleashing The Creative Potential Within Us All.

 

“Belief in your creative capacity lies at the heart of innovation.” –David Kelley

 

Has Someone Killed Your Creative Gene?

Kelley shares a story that had a big impact on him when he was only in the third grade. His friend was working on a clay horse. A passing comment from a fellow student caused him to quit and roll up the horse in to a ball. That single comment stopped this student’s creativity in its tracks. When Kelley shares this story, he inevitably gets a ton of people sharing various memories of similar experiences. Many of us have a debilitating fear of judgment.

Kelley tells of his visit with Albert Bandura, a social psychologist, and their discussion with Bandura’s work with phobias. Bandura has developed a methodology that cures people very quickly. Within hours people with a snake phobia actually touch one by the end of the session. By conquering this fear of snakes, they birth a new sense of confidence and have less anxiety about other things in their lives.

Using this model, Kelley decided to take the fear of being creative and use the same techniques to boost creativity.

 

“Striving for perfection can get in the way during the early stages of the creative process.” –David Kelley

 

A Lesson in Creativity: Rethinking the Why

Kelley tells the compelling story of Doug Dietz. Dietz was proud of the medical imaging equipment he developed. One day, he arrived to find his MRI machine in use and a little girl absolutely terrified. Apparently, 80% of pediatric patients have to be sedated just to go through an MRI. Dietz, once proud of his machine, now hated it because of the fear it caused in kids.

I’m often struck by the “why” behind an invention. The MRI worked as designed. Scientifically, it provided all of the data necessary for medical professionals to analyze.

But when Dietz saw the scared child, his why changed. Now his purpose shifted from the medical professional to the kids.

What Do You See in the Clouds?

Leadership Perceptions

 

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” –Edgar Degas

 

An artist I know loves to show me a blank canvas and describe, in detail, the painting. To her, it’s so clear. Where I see only a blank canvas, she sees an entire landscape full of vibrant colors.

An entrepreneur I know once took his family on a tour of a remote piece of property. He shared his vision for where buildings would go and all the customers who would be mingling in various parts of the land. The family couldn’t imagine it, but he saw it all vividly. And, today, it looks exactly like that. It’s a thriving business.

An author friend of mine creates characters in her mind. Month after month, she dreams about them, talks with them, listens to them. They become so real to her that, when she finally starts writing, it’s as if she is merely recording what happens instead of inventing it.

 

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” –Vincent van Gogh

 

That’s the power of imagination. It’s the power of creativity.

  • Seeing something magical where others see mundane.
  • Seeing something beautiful where others see garbage.
  • Seeing potential in someone they don’t see in themselves.
  • Leaders inspire us by seeing a positive vision for organizations.
  • Successful people see opportunities when others see problems.

If there’s one skill you want to cultivate, it’s seeing the positive, the beautiful, the magical in others, in yourself, in challenging times, in dark places.

Because that change of perspective can make the difference in your outlook.

 

“To change ourselves effectively, we first have to change our perceptions.” –Stephen R. Covey

 

On a recent vacation, my wife was relaxing on a deck with a view of a mountain. As she often does, she was bringing people into her mind and praying for them one by one. Mesmerized by the beautiful scene in front of her, she decided to take a quick picture with her phone.

When we returned home, she was looking at her pictures and shared this one with a few close friends. Immediately, the responses started coming back. There’s something in the clouds!

 

“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.” –Chuck Palahniuk