All companies in our era, try to come up with innovative solutions to create competitive edge, but not all of them can even barely get close to any innovative product or service. The reasons behind the innovation asymmetry between firms lies behind several seasons. While there are some external factors such as financial constraints, environment, and infrastructure, the internal factor, which is the corporate culture weighs more.
Individual creativity is the most crucial foundation of innovation. It is always those creative individuals who dedicate their talent and competencies to developing creative ideas that might lead to innovative solutions. Individual’s creativity, backed by a supportive work environment could lead to inventions, and the inventions could eventually be converted into innovations through a systematic approach of commercialization. As such, the human factor is the main foundation of every innovation in the world and organizations should create a corporate culture that fosters individual mindset toward innovation, which means innovative and entrepreneurial culture. In the previous post, I have mentioned the future foresight as one of the major prerequisites for boosting innovation. There are other factors that should be considered in creating an innovative organization. Throughout my experiences of working with corporates that really wanted to innovate, I have found two main impediments in creating an innovative firm.
1: Risk-taking and Delegation
I have seen many firms that blindly copy the non-hierarchy structure of Silicon Valley and designed a fancy open office, but eventually created nothing innovative due to the lack of heuristic approach and delegation. In order to foster creativity among personnel, the heuristic approach must be implemented and people should be free to make mistakes. I have seen managers who tried delegating tasks, but the employees were always asked for final confirmation before implementation. Some of these managers were so picky that every task in the organization involved series of back and forth before finalizing a simple task. In the long run, such approach kills creativity, as individuals lose their confidence, creativity, and their value as a person in the team.
It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do. – Steve Jobs
The extreme extend of this problem eventuates when these directors regard this as a code of honor and are proud of such attitudes acting as business heroes who work round the clock in order to get things done by themselves, as no other person can deliver the same. They never try to duplicate themselves or put time for training others or motivating them to do things differently and more creative. The consequence of this management style results in the death of innovation inside the organization.
on the other hand, true leaders with entrepreneurial mindset never stop delegating by letting their employees take risk, make mistakes, and eventually become creative and innovative.
2: Learning and Training
I have discussed the future foresight in a previous post, however, did not mention how planning the future will actually happen. The best way to predict the future is to create the future, and those who innovate, could also create the future for us. Most organizations tend to teach their employees methods and ways that were proven as effective in the past, however, teaching about the future has always been a great challenge. The main reason why most people think that future is hard to be predicted is their previous bias of knowledge. When you train employees too much and show them the way, it is really hard for them to believe that there might be some other methods or product. They hardly try to find a new way, as the current method is doing it well. They are also not get rewarded if they try to think out of the box.
Unlearning is the solution that helps overcome this problem in the organization. Unlearning is not about trying to forget things that we know or not using our current knowledge. It is kind of a mindset that requires proper attention from managers in order to boost innovative culture in the organization. In the unlearning process, you have to forget the current method for a short time and considering new replacement. Unlearning tells you how to think about new methods of doing things, be creative, and try to make some new inventions. In other words, it is learning how to do things differently by first refusing to accept the previous method, which by any chance might be more convenient at the moment. Unlearning is about forgetting old habits at work or personal life. Unlearning is about coming up with a new question to ask yourself and try to find out the answer. Unlearning is the process of increasing your curiosity for all products, methods, services, or anything around us.
The key to making great investments is to assume that the past is wrong, and to do something that’s not part of the past, to do something entirely differently. – Donald Valentine
Forgetting the status quo and starting pushing the organization into innovative culture, is not as easy as it looks like, but once implanted and accepted by the organization, the whole members of the team get addicted to it.