My favourite definition of Innovation is that suggested by Roger LaSalle, Director of Matrix Thinking; ‘Change that adds value’.
This definition highlights that innovation is not the generation of ideas as many people think of it. The generation of ideas is only the start of the process. Some people find this the most difficult part of innovation although with the correct culture and methodology in place you’d be surprised how many new ideas you can generate within your organisation in a very short space of time.
In fact, I’m sure you’ve probably got ideas in your head of things you’d like to change to improve your business, whether it’s an enhancement to a product or a service or a new process or procedure to improve efficiency? And if you’re honest you’ve probably had some of those ideas kicking around in your head for a while. So why haven’t you done anything with them yet?
If that’s you, that just makes you ‘normal’. It’s a very common scenario. There are likely to be plenty of reasons for not having done anything about it and most of them are on the road we can call business as usual. Not enough time. Insufficient resource. Ideas weren’t cascaded up the organisation. Nobody listened. Lack of funding or cash. Unsure about the potential returns. Or whisper it quietly….. procrastination? These are just some of the road blocks that prevent innovation from happening in most organisations.
In all the work I do with organisations to improve creativity and innovation there is one thing that is a constant. Ideas exist but little or nothing is done with them. When we go through our process of generating value-adding ideas, it is typical that of the dozens of ideas that are generated, at least half of them (often more) are not actually new. Of course there are always brilliantly new ideas generated too – but those ideas that surface that have been mooted before, that have been in somebody’s head for a while or adorn a post-it on a desktop somewhere tell reinforce the fact that innovation is as much about making good ideas happen as it is about generating the ideas in the first place. Taking the ideas from the idea factory through to change.
The most effective way of making this happen is through a process of project management. A project can be defined as a ‘temporary vehicle for implementing change’. If innovation is change that adds value, then what better way of breaking through the road blocks that prevent innovation from being implemented than driving straight through it?
The first step is to make somebody responsible and accountable for the project. At least one individual has to take responsibility for taking the change from the idea stage to the implementation stage.
The next step in the innovation process is to evaluate the idea and ensure that 1. the idea truly adds value to the organisation and 2. is the best of the ideas available to us before we consume resources making the change.
The first step of any good project management process is, of course, the business case. At this step we present the following:
- Reasons for undertaking the project;
- Risks; and
If consider the requirements early in the process of making innovative change happen you can easily develop these as:
- Why are we innovating and what do we expect to get out of it?
- What other options can we consider? Have we discovered all of the options available? Other product development ideas, service improvements, new services or process improvements? Why have we dismissed the others and selected this option instead?
- What are the costs of implementing our innovative change?
- What are the (quantifiable) benefits? What and how big are the opportunities that the innovation gives us? What is the (quantifiable) consequence of not making the change?
- What risks are associated with making the change and are they worth taking?
- How long will it take to implement the innovative changes and will the innovation still be relevant by the time we’ve completed the project.
Once we’ve gone through this evaluation process and confirmed that the innovation both adds value and adds more value than alternative options then we can set about creating the project plan, allocating resources and delegating tasks and responsibilities. The process of making the considered change happen. Implementing innovation.
Ian Laverty is the Managing Director of Ingenuity, a training and consulting organisation specialising in Creativity, Innovation and Change Implementation. To find out more about our Project Management Programmes and qualification see www.ingenuity.management/project-management