Estimated reading time: 3 mins
Although it is very true that the best innovation comes from inside your organization, sometimes it is preferable to seek outside help from unusual sources.
Innovation is about doing things better. It’s also about challenging one-self and the status-quo we find ourselves in, and it can result in major step-change as well as continuous improvement. Organization’s that empower their employees to generate ideas and see them being acted upon is an ideal that few achieve, but more and more are doing so. Focus on innovation is high on most CIOs agenda’s.
The problem with inward-looking innovation is that it is often constrained by a common perception of an opportunity or challenge, so everyone involved has a strong sense of the same barriers to change, so they don’t get raised. Organization’s can often be accused of linear thinking, even when innovating. What is sometimes needed is a fresh view.
But a fresh view can be often expensive. Bringing in consultants and external change managers can be an enormous cost. But wait – this thinking is linear thinking! Why are external professional consultants the only way of getting this fresh view?
What you need is some ‘outer-vation’. There are many alternative and unusual sources of a fresh view. Here’s where.
- Your spouse or partner
- Your parents
- Your friends who you share a beverage with
- Colleagues and connections in LinkedIn
- The guy from Accounts
- Your hairdresser
These are just a few. You might be thinking "what do these guys know about my business and organization?" But aha! that’s the point. These people won’t be shackled by the baggage (technically described as an ‘instant perception’) you and your colleagues carry. They will see the opportunity as you describe it – and describe it you must from an agnostic point of view. That’s if you can describe the problem in a way that is factual and simple to understand. And I think this is the test. If you can’t do that then perhaps you need to gather more facts and conceptualize the opportunity better before you continue your innovation, whoever you choose to work with.
Using ‘outsiders’ in this way is especially productive if the persons you approach are ‘right-brain dominant’. Why?
- The right side of the brain controls your creative, visual, spatial concepts.
- The left side of the brain controls your logical, mathematical judgmental, analytical activities.
If you’ve been attempting innovation with ‘left-brain dominant’ people so far, then it’s no wonder you are stuck.
Don’t believe me? Then try it out. When I first thought of this a few years ago, I was skeptical myself. But necessity drove me to try it out on one particular opportunity where I couldn’t find anyone internally to help me, and I had no budget to bring in external help. The opportunity in question was how to build an application that was extensible and configurable by a non-techie, so that they could offer each client a different experience on their extranet. This was long before MS Sharepoint or WordPress was around. The solution I came up with was just like MS Sharepoint, and WordPress, in fact. So I scratched my head and twiddled my thumbs for ages, until I defined the problem in a simple way and asked my friends, and also my wife, for their ideas. What I got back was pure magic. They solved the problem for me, in a delightfully simple and naive way.
Here are a few books that I think will help you stimulate innovation:
- The Art of Innovation: Success Through Innovation the IDEO Way
- The New Age of Innovation: Driving Cocreated Value Through Global Networks
- The Leader’s Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills: Unlocking the Creativity and Innovation in You and Your Team
- Creative Management and Development (Published in association with The Open University)