A recent HBR.com post by Markus Lorenz explains, at least partially, why companies today are not developing breakthrough innovations as often as they used to and as often as they need to in order to drive profitability.
If you closely analyze unsuccessful attempts at developing breakthrough products, perhaps the most common trouble you find is not one of the usual suspects, such as lack of top-management commitment. Instead, you’ll see that efficiency-minded project managers are inadvertently discouraging the explorations – and therefore the learning – that make radical ideas practical.
Even if you don’t develop consumer products, you still need to innovate and initiate breakthroughs that set you apart from your competition. For example, improving customer service by putting a candy bowl in your waiting room is pretty incremental. A true innovation would be implementing a system that improved response times to customer complaints by 50%.
But creating these innovations may not be as easy as you think. Based on Lorenz’s article, it can be easy to inadvertently discourage innovation, even when you’re trying. So here are five ways to encourage innovation and not discourage it.
1.) Focus On Big Changes
Treat small innovation different than where something big needs to happen. Manage that team, set goals, but make it clear that something big needs to happen.
2.) Pick Your Battles
Not everything can be a breakthrough. Not everything needs to be a breakthrough. Prioritize resources and expectations on where you need a breakthrough.
3.) Manage Uncertainly
This is really a fancy way of saying: “Great idea! How do we try it out with as little risk as possible?” Using off the shelf solutions or outside partners are good ways to insulate against an untested idea.
4.) Learn from Failure
Just because an idea fails doesn’t mean that it’s not a breakthrough. Mine failure for insights on if you should try it again.
5.) Know When to Catch the Glass
Ending a project doesn’t mean being afraid of failure. It just means the difference between catching a tipping glass, letting it spill water, and letting it smash on the floor. All three are failures, but the guy who catches the glass can start working on a better glass while the other two are cleaning up.