The best leaders know, progress is always preceded by change. Therefore, understanding the process and creating a culture where innovation can thrive is critical.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been writing on the topic of innovation. First, I addressed strategic imperatives for innovation (define it, teach it and build a culture to nurture it), then the importance of imagination to a leader, next I shared Chick-fil-A’s innovation process, and last week I wrote about space to innovate. Today, let’s explore five specific actions you can take to make the wheels of innovation turn faster in your organization.

1. Set Crazy Goals – This single act can often be the catalyst for innovation. When you tell someone to do something 10% faster, the chances are good they’ll try to do what’s already being done just a little faster. However, if you set a goal for 50% faster, something will have to fundamentally change. Often, it is the realization that significant change will be required that ignites the fires of innovation.

2. Build Rough Prototypes – In the early stages of the innovation process, rough prototypes can be extremely helpful. These early attempts to move your idea into a 3D form are essential to accelerate the entire process. You want to discover any fundamental flaws in your design early. Cardboard, duct tape, foam core and other art supplies should be readily available. Failing fast is a learned skill, and rough prototypes help.

3. Don’t Look for Perfect – When working through the innovation process, perfect is the enemy of progress. Rather than perfection, look for progress. At each step in the process, your idea needs to get better and better. Looking for perfection before you get to the end of the process can be deadly to an emerging idea. Many great ideas die because they are judged prematurely.

4. Reduce the Budget – I know this probably feels counterintuitive – it is. When we have big budgets, we often over engineer and overproduce. Big budgets can also slow the entire process. In many situations, a small budget drives creative alternatives. If you determine you’ve found a big idea, you can always go back for more money – successful prototype in hand.

5. Praise Ideas that Fail – One of the primary reasons most organizations are not more innovative is the fear of failure. If all you ever praise are the successes, people will grow increasingly reluctant to innovate. To innovate well, you must have failure. If you praise failure, along with success, you’ll make it easier for people to take a risk.

Innovation is as much an art as it is a science. Creative work is always like that. That’s why smart leaders want to create the best possible conditions. There are no guarantees, but we can accelerate the journey.[GLS_Shield]

What are some of the things you’ve done to accelerate innovation in your organization?




Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.