How to Overcome Barriers to Innovation In Your Organisation

Premise:

Every organisation wants to innovate and they all have people with enough ideas to fuel their innovation efforts, but somewhere these ideas get stifled and innovation ends up remaining an intent only. So, what is it that stops organisations to innovate and is there a way to systematically remove these barriers?

Overcoming the Bias for Creativity:

Dr Jennifer Mueller, in her book Creative Change has shown that we are inherently biased against creativity, as individuals and as organisations. She explains that when it comes to evaluating interesting & creative ideas, we can fall into one of two mindsets – How/Best mindset and Why/Potential Mindset.

The How/Best mindset is our default mindset and gets triggered every time we want to evaluate any idea. This typically explores if we know how to implement the idea and how easy or difficult will it be to execute on this.

Most creative ideas by definition are creative and hence, it is not easy to know in advance how they will pan out and so we can’t have a clear answer to the question – how best can we execute this idea. And since, we are not confident about this, we generally tend to ignore or not invest in these ideas. It is exactly these ideas which have the potential to become innovations that can provide us the breakthrough we need in our business.

The Why/Potential mindset is one where we want to explore the potential of the idea and why this idea makes sense. This mindset allows us to explore the potential of the idea and take the next step.

 

Leverage the Power of Story

People need to know that it is ok for them to innovate. No, they need to know that they are expected to come up with ideas that can fuel innovations. The way this can be done is through telling them corporate folklores or stories that lead people to the belief that

“People Like us, do stuff like this”

There is a famous story of how a retailer tells the story of a customer service rep actually gift wrapping an item that he clearly knew that was not bought at this retailer. This is also the story about how Ritz Carlton enables their employees to spend up to a certain amount, if needed, to delight a customer in need. Some of these stories become legends in our organisations and have a bigger impact on how people behave than anything that we as leaders may say or do.

Empower Line Managers

I truly believe that the culture of the organisation is built by the first line managers. These are the one’s that are closest to the people who are doing the actual work. If they do not appreciate their employees trying to work on creative ideas, irrespective of whatever the organisation tries to do, they will not be able to enable grounds-up innovation within their organisation.

So, as a leader, we need to be very careful in whom we chose as the first line managers and then spend as much effort as possible to train them to learn to behave in a way that can enable the organisation’s values and strategy. It is clearly the most important activity that an organisation could do. Again, corporate folklores about managers going out of their way to do what is right for the organisation will also go a long way in getting them to behave in a way that is expected.

Reward Attempts at Innovation

There are a lot of people who try creative ideas and fail. I know that while every organisation wants to innovate, nobody wants to fail. This is a clear dichotomy because, innovation, by its very nature is a journey into the unknown and when you are exploring unknown territories, you are bound to fall now and again. So, it is not only important to recognise and award successful innovations, but also to recognise and learn from the times that it did not work out. I am sure that there is a lot that we can learn from every attempt that we have at innovation. Someone said nicely, that the motto of any team that wants to succeed at innovation should be

Learn fast and Learn Often.

So, it is important to recognise the people who attempted something interesting and learn from their efforts.

Embrace Constraints

One of the best ways to get creative is to create artificial constraints.

I was part of a project once where the project leader created a constraint on the cost of the product that we were creating, the time that we have to come up with the prototype, the resources that we at our disposal and also the customer segment that we were to address. With so many constraints, almost in every area of the project, one would assume that it would be extremely difficult to make progress.

We were, and you would too, be pleasantly surprised that once we embraced the constraints, it became much easier for us to focus on the project and come up with interesting and creative ways to solve the problem that we were trying to address.

At times, not having enough constraints could be what is stopping the team from being truly creative.

Create Space and Time: 

It is well-known that our environment has a significant impact on each of us and the kind of work that we do. There are a lot of examples of extremely creative people having specific kind of environment and coupled with a specific kind of routine that helps them to get into the zone of being creative.

The same way, having a specific space and time to be creative allows your employees to put themselves in a certain frame of mind, which then becomes conducive to creative work. This is one of the reasons, almost all the R&D labs and development labs have environments where employees could go out for walks or have a specific space for creative work and enough areas and time to play.

Process Beats Talent:

My mentor, Porus Munshi, says this very well:

“Process beats Talent. Every time.”

Having a clear process for enabling people to be their creative best will always beat trying to hire the most creative person that you can find and letting them to be their creative best.

It is not enough to have a process that enables people to bring their creative best to work, but we also need to have a process to learn from every attempt at innovation, a process that can guide the teams and their managers on how to navigate the organisation to get their innovation in front of the right people, a process to ensure that these people are in their “why/potential” mindset while evaluating these creative ideas, a process to recognise and reward people taking this journey.

Conclusion:

So, in conclusion, there is a lot that an organisation (or a leader of the organisation) could do to enable their teams to bring and give their creative best to the organisation. If the leaders do a good job of creating the right environment, have the right process and create the right constraints, good innovations coming out of that environment will be a given.

Helping a 1000 Entrepreneurs

Helping a 1000 Entrepreneurs

When I was running my business in Salem, a decade back, I did not have mentors or coaches that I could reach out seeking help or guidance. Being an entrepreneur can get very lonely.

Today, the situation has changed significantly. There are a lot of mentors and coaches are available for startup founders and entrepreneurs to connect, learn and achieve the results that they want to.

I have had my share of mentors as well – some whom I have worked with directly and learnt a lot, some whom I have learnt by following them and their work. I wanted to publicly thank all of them.

  • Porus Munshi: He has had the single most significant impact on how I work and view the world. He is the author of the best selling book – “Making Breakthrough Innovations Happen“. I also hosted him on my podcast and was probably an episode where I learnt the most. You can listen to that podcast here. Thanks Porus for your belief in me and spending so much time guiding me.
  • Seth Godin: I had the pleasure of interacting with him for the first time earlier this week as I participated in a leadership workshop that he hosted to raise funds for the Plus Acumen. He has a significant impact on the way I think about approaching work. He has been the inspiration for me to think bigger and do work that matters. I have learnt so much from reading his blog, books and videos on YouTube. Thanks Seth for leading and inspiring me & millions of others to do work that matters.
  • Joe Polish & Dan Sullivan: Both of them host a podcast titled “10xTalk” and have been instrumental in helping me think in frameworks and the importance of reflection. I have listened to every single episode that they have released and learnt so much. Thanks Joe and Dan, you guys are awesome. I am looking forward to having both of you on my podcast some day soon. Joe runs the Genius Network and Dan runs Strategic Coach.
  • Gary Veynerchuk: I have learnt a lot about hustle from Gary. His every single day is about hustle to make an impact. I also learnt the power of exploration & intent… And yes Gary, one day you will own your team. Thanks for inspiring and taking us along the journey. You can follow him and watch him hustle here.
  • Paulo Coelho: I must have read the book “The Alchemist” at least a 100 times. Every time I feel trapped, low morale or feel lost, I read the book again. The book instills hope and excitement every time I read it. I hope I get to meet you sometime soon. But till then, keep inspiring & fascinating us with the stories that you weave around human emotions and struggles.

Having learned so much from such a variety of people, I think it is now time for me to give back to the community and share whatever knowledge I have gained through my own work and what i have learnt from observing and learning from others.

Though I have a full time job both as an employee and as a husband/father, I would like to find time to help at least a 1000 entrepreneurs this year.

By help, I mean I shall do one of the following:

Social Promotions:

Every day, I shall find new entrepreneurs/enterprises/startups, who are doing work that matters and promote them on my social channels (online and offline).

Connections:

One of the best ways to help someone is to connect them to people who can have a big impact on their life and work. I shall strive to connect entrepreneurs to potential employees, customers, investors and/or partners.

Feature:

I will use this blog and my podcast to interview inspiring entrepreneurs, thought leaders who have a lot to offer others by sharing their journey and learnings with others. I shall feature them on my blog and/or podcast and spread their word and work.

Masterminds:

I shall create a mastermind group of entrepreneurs and host the same. The purpose of the mastermind would be to egg each other in their entrepreneurial journey and  at the same time use the power of the mastermind format to brainstorm and solve any specific challenge that are all struggling with over a period of time. I shall create the master mind group and update the information here later.

Mentoring/Coaching over a cup of coffee:

I shall host the coffee corner sessions every week to mentor/coach young entrepreneurs who want to pick my brain on the topics of new product development, business model,  marketing and customer acquisition.

10X in 10Q workshop:

I shall run free 10X in 10Q workshops where I shall share tactics and strategies that entrepreneurs can use to grow exponentially. You can register for these workshops here.

Open House:

I shall host Google Hangouts on a regular basis for startup founders to join and and ask me anything that they think that I can be of help. Details about the first one can be found here.

How will I measure success:

It is one thing to do something when you find sometime and then there is no pressure to perform and if it happens, it happens. However, I want to have a serious impact in the ecosystem and in order to do that, I need to be able to measure progress and know if I have succeeded in this project.

So, one of the best ways to ascertain whether or not you have added value is if the person is willing to pay for the idea/suggestion/help. So, as long as an entrepreneur donates some amount (irrespective of the amount of money – 1$ or 10000$doesn’t matter) me or a charity of mutual choice, I will count that as an entrepreneur whom I have helped.

How can you help

If you are an entrepreneur or a startup founder who would like to be a part of this movement, please register yourself here and I shall be in touch.

If you know an entrepreneur who could use some help, please forward this to them and ask them to reach out to me by filling out the form here.

If you want me to speak at your event for entrepreneurs, please reach out to me here.

So what’s in it for me?

Apart from the satisfaction of having done work that matters, I would have learnt extreme time management. I would also benefit from the positive energy that I shall get from meeting so many entrepreneurs. Hope fully this will also allow me to start living a life of significance rather than that of success.

To all the entrepreneurs:

Lets go make the world a better place!

PBTO12: Making Breakthrough Innovations Happen with @PorusMunshi

Who is on the show today:

In today’s episode, we have Porus Munshi, author of the best selling book “Making Breakthrough Innovations Happen”.

Why is he on the show

I have worked with Porus on an innovation project and from experience know that he is a great coach and has the uncanny ability to guide the teams to achieve their goals without any compromises. His understanding of the breakthrough or leapfrog innovation process is very deep and I have learnt a lot in every conversation that i have had with him over the past few years. .

What are we talking about

In this episode, we talk about making breakthrough innovations happen or enabling leapfrog performances.
In this freewheeling conversation we talk about
  • leapfrog innovation and how you could make leapfrogs both in your organization and in your personal lives.
  • We will also talk about how average organizations with average people can achieve extra-ordinary performances.
  • How Process Beats Talent
  • Ichchha Shakti (Power of Purpose), Gyan Shakti (Power of Knowledge) & Kriya shakti (Power of action) and how all the three play a critical role in any innovation project
  • How it is easier to do a 10x leap in performance than attempting a 2x leap
  • What is the biggest limiting factor for peak performance in individuals and organizations
  • What is an insight and how can insights lead to breakthrough leaps in performances
  • We talk about the role of a leader in an organization
  • How we could implement the same principles of leap frog innovation in our own lives and achieve extraordinary results. 

We had a great conversation and I learnt a lot from Porus.

You can connect with Porus on twitter.

Buy his book

You can also buy his book on amazon by clicking on the book image below. This is an affiliate link.

PS: Please do leave a rating or a review on iTunes if you really liked the episode 

You can also watch his TEDx talk titled “Redesigning Life”.