INNOVATION CULTURE IS A PREREQUISITE FOR SUCCESS
When the upper management in an organization contributes in creating the frames for good/developing conflicts, and the project managers professionally as well as humanly are able to handle conflicts, then development in an organization will be possible. In such a situation, the foundation for an innovation culture will be created.
The big innovations as for example iPad do not come easily or during a “problem solving meeting”. They appear from an environment, where it is acceptable to disagree and where there are thousands of good, bad and crazy ideas.
Having an innovation culture does not mean that all ordinary work and projects in the organization should be put on standby. This means that there should be room for disagreement in the making of the projects, between the projects, and that it is highly appreciated from the upper management when the employees present ideas. Including the bad and the crazy!
When was the last time you celebrated the best idea, which after all turned out not to be saleable in reality?
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DEVELOPMENT, INNOVATION AND DISRUPTION
We rarely hear about innovation without the word ‘disruption’ being mentioned. What happens in most cases is often something earthier, namely development.
Therefore, let’s get the concepts in place.
Development deals with the gradual improvements, which happens as a natural consequence of the fact that a product or a service is considered.
An example of a development is, when a smartphone gets a better camera.
Innovation is a process as well as a result.
If a result has to be an innovation, it must be a real and evident breakthrough (not only an improvement).
An example of innovation is, when Apple invented Live Photos.
The innovation process is the work that leads to the innovation. There is no concrete recipe on how an innovation process should look like, even though there are many processes and tools that can inspire and motivate to development and innovation. In upcoming publications here on the blog I want to share some of my perspectives on these, but for now I want to refer to some other solid writings that hopefully will inspire.
For inspiration, see among others, the article “What your Innovation Process Should Look Like” from Harvard Business Review, which gives an insight in the core elements in a good innovation process.
Another concrete example is Pretotyping, that specially within digitalization is a popular approach – for example, take a look at this interesting article from Medium: “Break the Innovation barrier with Pretotyping”.
An important transversal point is – notwithstanding innovation process – that for the innovation to flower, it is essential that the team, which works with innovation is put together correctly – and a conflict environment will be created, where the innovative ideas can occur. We will look closer to that later on.
Disruption means destruction or disturbance.
Contrary to innovation, disruption is exclusively a result – and most often you see disruption at first sight retrospectively. If an innovation becomes disruptive (and thus implies disruption) you cannot analyze or find out in advance – but of course, it can be an introductory ambition, when the innovation process is getting started. This correspondence between an ambition to create disruption has through time made more consultants erroneously to set an equal sign between disruption and innovation.
And innovation becomes a disruptive innovation, when the innovation is so significant that it disturbs or even destroys, so far, successful industries business models.
Let us take a look on some examples to get the context in place.
PERSPECTIVATION AND EXAMPLES OF DISRUPTION
With the abovementioned definition it is openly that an innovation like the smartphone has enduced disruption – and in particular in many areas that has nothing to do with telephony. But on the other side, how much should an industry be disturbed before you can talk about disruption?
For example, has Airbnb’s business model disrupted the hotel industry? To some extent, I would say.
What if, when a municipality applies a software robot to consider and handle forms and documents – is that disruption? Not so much. My statement is that the latter is just the use of a well known innovation in a given context that causes a development concerning the processing of forms in the municipality.
STARTUP WITH AMBITION ABOUT DISRUPTION OF THE NEWS INDUSTRY
Another example from my own real life.
In one of my companies, NewsButler, we are working with a new and innovative digital platform for presentation of news – a kind of “Spotify for news”, if you prefer. The matter is an innovation and nothing more. But NewsButler has the potential to create disruption in the news industry, if we are good and lucky enough.
If it turns out that we are able to introduce a new digital business model in the news industry, that changes the existing hierarchies and paves the way for totally new players – then we are allowed to say, that we are being down to disrupt the news industry (and that I sincerely do hope that I will be allowed to say some day!).
But until we can see the results, it is “just” an innovation. It is also worth it to mention that even though NewsButler turns out not to cause disruption, it does not mean, that it is a bad idea. If we construct a solid media firm following our innovation and technology, that would do it. Everything that is new does not have to end in disruption to be a success.
Technologies can in itself be disruptive without necessarily being tied up on a concrete solution. For example, Blockchain, that probably will disturb a range of different sectors (besides the finance sector).
DISRUPTION IN THE FINANCE SECTOR
An interesting example of disruption in the finance sector, that essentially has nothing to do with technology, is the innovation of “low cost index funds”, that has been a revolution in parts of the investing market – especially for the benefit of common persons saving up.
The acknowledged podcast, Freakonomics Radio, has both an entertaining and ? episode about this subject, which has the title The Stupidest Thing You Can Do With Your Money.
THE RIGHT COCKTAIL OF INNOVATION CAN LEAD TO DISRUPTION
When you as a company want to work with disruption, then in most cases it deals with disruption. If you combine innovation within digitalization, technology and business models, then you get a cocktail, which can lead to disruption, if you are really good (and if you are successful).
THE COMPOSITION OF INNOVATION TEAMS IS CRUCIAL FOR SUCCESS
If you as an organization want to have a chance to succeed with development of something really innovative it is a must that the teams who are working with innovation have the right composition and are organized correctly in correlation to the business.
An innovation team that professionally as well as culturally is very identical, will typically have a huge professional depth within a limited area. It provides a risk that the team (and thus the innovations) becomes short-sighted and segregated from the rest of the company. Such a decoupling does not lead to innovation – but to development within the area, where the team has the professional weight.
When an innovation team professionally and culturally is very different and thus has a wide professional focus, it provides a much better anchoring in the company as a whole. Therefore, it is much easier for the team to gather ideas from a surrounding organization, and this contributes to the fact that it is easier to utilize the collected idea potential, which exists in all companies. This heterogeneous innovation team is thus a precondition in order to have success with innovation.
The placement of an innovation team in an organization must ensure that the team has a real possibility of execution without being disturbed by “daily work” (in any case in the timeslots, which are dedicated to the innovation work).
Innovation does not come with the team alone – more is needed – namely conflicts.
“For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate”
– Margaret Heffernan
FRICTION AND CONFLICTS LEAD TO INNOVATION
What is needed to make the innovation team innovate?
The American entrepreneur and writer Margaret Heffernan, has very concisely explained it as “For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.”
Friction among people can either be developing (constructive conflicts) or conducting (destructive conflicts). The difference between if a conflict is constructive or deconstructive is only the way you handle it – when the settings are safe, the conflict creates positive energy and development. In other ways you have to develop a healthy conflict environment, if you really want to make a breeding ground for friction and thus development and innovation.
A healthy conflict environment is characterized by confidence and room for respect for different opinions and attitudes. It signifies a common understanding and accept regarding conflicts and how to handle them. The bigger degree of confidence, the more safety is provided for the employee to express opinions and contribute to alternative, creative suggestions.
When you lead a team into (developing) conflicts you have to pay attention that we as human beings are very different in proportion to how we experience conflicts – also the developing. Some people have a hard time with disagreements while others prosper or are motivated. You have to pay attention to this, when composing an innovation team.
For example, if a team is composed where the limit of provocation (the limit for when you feel provoked or where internal tensions become uncomfortable) is low development/innovation will be more difficult than in a team with a high limit of provocation. You have to be very aware on handling the tensions and conflicts which occur when a team consists of participants with both low and high limits of provocation. The participants who have a low limit of provocation might experience the innovation process as very uncomfortable and have a feeling that they are being overruled.
All the conflicts can be constructive (developing) or destructive (open conflicts) – it is only the way of handling that makes the result.
This matrix can be utilized to get an overview on where a group potentially spoken is in proportion to the conflict environment. The single field is not a diagnosis, but can be seen as a risk or an opportunity, that should be analyzed. For example, there is no need of hidden conflicts if the environment in the group is marked by mistrust and immediate agreement, but there is a breeding ground that they occur.
In groups where there is a high degree of confidence and immediate agreement you can with advantage create debate, disagreement and developing conflicts. This can in the right contexts be a breeding ground for more and better development and innovation than if the team continues with “business as usual”.
SUMMARY AND FURTHER INSPIRATION
When an organization wants to innovate, you need to:
- Be aware of what innovation is and is not
- Create the right team, which is heterogeneous, deeply anchored and has peace to do its work
- Establish a sound conflict environment
- Support a strong innovation culture managerial, for example by celebrating all innovations and urge towards sound conflicts and debate
There are however many other ingredients in obtaining success with innovation, among others that the managerial processes of the organization may not hinder innovative experiments (for example with a rigid and inconvenient budget process). I would recommend that you read more about this and other ambient elements in the articles – The 5 Requirements of a Truly Innovative Company and 10 Tips for Successful Innovation Teams.