Most companies I speak to claim to be innovative, cutting edge or forward thinking in some way. However, I have always wondered if these organisations, groups and businesses truly understand what innovation actually is, or what it takes to have an innovative culture?
Over the last decade we have seen the emergence of multiple roles within organisations across a whole host of industries. All of these, in some way, are entrenched in the delivery of “innovation” and most of the time have the I-word smuggled into titles alongside other words like, “director of”, “head of”, and “manager”. Most of these roles are designed to be responsible for influencing a culture that drives disruptive ideas that stand them apart from the competition.
Innovation: the horse that’s bolted
Well, hold on a minute… if innovation is all about the end goal or in other words that podium moment, then what was the act? What did we do to get there?
Everyone chases the end goal so much they lose the emphasis on the really important bits that get us where we need to be in order to make a meaningful impact. We overlook elements like creative thinking, problem exploration, good design and actually talking to your customers to gain insights, which go into getting you where you need to be.
What about creativity?
Creativity underpins everything we do to think differently. Our definition of creativity is nothing other than the generation of an idea that is both; novel (something that has never been thought of before) and useful (something you can do something with).
Innovation is also held in the eye of the beholder. You don’t have to keep up with the likes of Apple and Google to be seen to be innovative. If it’s new to your team, your customers, your business or your industry then great, that’s all you need!
Breaking the barriers to creativity
Unfortunately we can never make these mental blocks go away – remember they’re hardwired. However, what we can do is utilise techniques that skirt around these pattern systems that lock in our thinking.
To illustrate my point on pattern systems, take a look at the visual metaphor example below. Do you see anything? If you look hard enough there is a dominant image buried in there somewhere. What is being tested here is whether this particular pattern is stored in your brain.
Creativity in business
Now, let’s for a second imagine that this is the view on the way our organisation works and let’s say we have been working in this organisation for 10+ years. I can almost guarantee that after 10 years of staring at this image, it becomes a crystal-clear image of a cowboy on the horse and over time our brains will begin to “Tippex” the other pieces around the outside away.
The dangerous thing is that these other pieces around the outside could be representative of new tech, new markets, new competition, and yet we ignore it as it’s not part of what we want to see, it’s not part of the cowboy on the horse, or how our organisation operates. This article provides a very real example of where this has been unbelievably evident in a business room in the past.
Now look at the image below. What do you see now?
Anything? That’s right. It’s exactly the same image as before, just rotated 180 degrees! Note that this image wasn’t as easy to see this time round, and for a split-second you were searching for something new in it. That is all that is needed to see something new in exactly the same environment as before – it just seems a bit weirder than how you remember it.
To get around this mental barrier, we should focus on techniques that distort your views on the way you currently see your organisation, processes or problems in order to see and create something different, something new… something… innovative?
In summary, don’t just get serious with innovation roles and outcomes, get serious with creativity, ideas and design thinking – anyone can do it with a process and some willpower. These are the ingredients that ultimately get you (and your customers) to where you want to be – breaking new ground, opening up new opportunities and driving growth.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason is a Co-founder of DWF Consulting, which provides both legal and non-legal clients with specialist, business transformation services, setting DWF apart from all other law firms. He heads the Innovation practice area, which supports clients to tackle complex and strategic business challenges using cutting edge creativity techniques, helping businesses to explore new and exciting opportunities in their own business.