Three guerrilla survival tips for answering the ‘innovation’ question

Innovation culture
Crowdsource your innovation

What are you doing to innovate?

With complexity and change gaining pace in the world we’re seeing increasing pressure on leadership teams to have answers and all too often the word ‘innovation’ gets thrown around. This week, the NZ Herald launched its innovation report section, highlighting this country’s urgent need for innovation. 

Innovation in dairy farming, in banking, in food production, in consumerism and even in accounting (which could be a bit concerning).  The question is…

Is this good news or bad news?  The answer is… yes.  Bad news if you’re not prepared, good news if you are.

Here’s a quick survival guide to prepare yourself for when the “what are you doing to innovate’ questions get asked: 

#1 Put together a discovery initiative to invite ideas from the organisation

 This could be a simple online survey asking staff to look around share any observations that could be developed or any ideas (here are some tools suggested by This part of the process will have served it’s purpose by the simple fact that the question has been asked.  The results you get (if any) will be a bonus. The real magic is in the next steps.

Task plan: a) create and distribute an online survey to kick-off the initiative and, b) collate the results.

 #2 Begin a collaborative process for dealing with the ideas and insights gained

Invite and convene a few energetic individuals, preferably from different areas in the business and facilitate a discussion about the ideas captured. The key word here is facilitate.  Let the group take ownership of the ideas and what to do with them. Offer your support and advice and ask the group to prioritise the ideas in order of value and effort. This way the group starts to own the process and this relieves you of the burden to keep it going.

Task plan: a) Identify and invite suitable participants, b) share the intent with them and c) facilitate a regular session (monthly or quarterly) to review and develop the ideas captured.

#3 Learn how to build business cases that develop the most promising ideas

Take the output of the previous process and put together mini business cases for the most promising ideas. This can be a simple back-of-a-napkin story or a more detailed cost-benefit analysis. Be sure to direct any credit for the ideas back to the originating group (or individual). This will tend to invite more participation and increase the momentum for your innovation initiatives. This activity could be kept going on a shoe-string budget if needed until the right opportunity presents itself. That is, when the question gets asked.

Task plan: a) prioritise ideas based on business value, b) prepare a business case for the top items (with the help of the group) and c) share the business cases with potential sponsors (which is bound to make a good impression in the right cultures).

 So when the question about innovation gets asked and you’ve followed our little recipe here you’ll be able to answer confidently: 

“I’m so glad you asked! Let me tell you about what we’ve been doing to promote innovation and here is an example business case. It would be great to get your support.”

How do you innovate? Let us know in the comments below. 

(Still hungry? We’ve talked about innovation before here.)

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