Everybody is telling you „successful people ready many books“, but few say that not every book out there actually adds value or extends your horizon in any way. Your own time is among the most valuable resources you have to manage and any investment from that account should have a return in an intellectual way. Just reading books for the sake of reading books doesn’t help you anyhow but losing time.
Today I want to introduce you to a book, which I read recently. “Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation” by Robert F. Brands and Martin J. Kleinman is a practical follow-up guide to combine innovation theory and implementation tips for the real world. I found it very useful because it does not just address the theory of an innovative work environment but also gives you actionable steps how same can be achieved.
If you are not working in a tech hub startup company, you might be familiar with the terror that is accompanied with change and “new things”. It is the human nature to invent in order to solve problems, but it is even more so human nature to doubt new ways and to resist innovation. In this book you can find help on nurturing and finally managing an innovative working culture within your organization. Here are some pointers that are explained more in depth in the book, interestingly enough following I-N-N-O-V-A-T-I-O-N to the very letter:
Inspire / Initiate
Without the leaders and champions all effort in innovation are likely to be in vain. The innovation related activities and engagements must not be communicated like a flavor-of-the-month. The innovative mind-set and culture needs to be backed by key individuals starting at the very top of the organization and needs to run through the company.
No Risk, No Innovation
Have you ever wondered if there is a faster way home, than the one you know? In the age of navigation computers it’s almost irrelevant to think about the shortest route, but maybe there is a shortcut nobody else has tried. Maybe innovation is the dirt path around the corner, which will bring you home 5 minutes faster every day. You have to risk it one time in order to find out. Maybe you’ll lose 10 minutes going there, to find out it’s a dead-end and return, but maybe it will save you time every day going forward.
New Product Development Process
This is among the most critical parts of implementing an innovation-driving methodology and process structure. I strongly agreed to the proposed usage of a stage-gating process in order to assess usefulness, applicability and potential value-add with stakeholders and, you guessed it, gate approvers. Work the idea, have it approved, detail it, have it approved, build a prototype, have it approved, etc. You’ll either fail fast or proceed to implementation.
“Innovation is not a luxury. It’s a must-have.”
– Robert F. Brands
There needs to be responsibility on what’s happening in the innovation space. While I have a good feeling about using dedicated innovation time slots that are fixed in people’s calendars, I also know that ideas know no schedule. Regardless of how you are implementing the innovation-driving methods, there needs to be someone who not only takes credit for good ideas but also defends innovators if anything goes wrong.
Let’s be frank. Without value-add innovation is just to renew something or do something new. If this has no value to neither operations, business, users, clients nor any other stakeholders, then why would you bother with it? Make sure your project also pursues to add value in a way.
In order to manage innovation projects you need to trust the innovator team. They are very likely participating in your project on top of their operational activities, so trust them to define their own due dates on deliverables and let them be accountable of their part of the mission. If they had no interest in doing this, they’d have never joined the initiative to begin with.
Training and Coaching
No methodology can persist if there is no transfer of knowledge happening. Whether you arrange for trainings or rely on mentor/mentee relationships, you are required to make sure that both theory and practical knowledge is shared and distributed. Creating a slide deck and storing it on a webpage won’t suffice.
“Innovation is the ability to convert ideas into invoices.”
– L. Duncan
Actually this particular discipline is one of my personal favorites. It might be that not every idea can be carried out. It can also be that a proposed change doesn’t even make sense. However, that might change and maybe the person, who had that idea, was just ahead of his or her time. This is why it’s good to record ideas and index them. Maybe you can leverage your company’s social collaboration platform and add taxonomy. That way you will be able to better manage these ideas even after years. If you are not familiar with that, best research on the subject of knowledge management.
Observe and Measure
And now I want to see numbers! Or maybe just an example will do? It is desirable to account for measurable results. You should be able to somehow compare the state of before and after in numbers anyhow. Remember Management 101: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
Net Result and Reward
Make sure you properly assess the project whether it was successful or not. If possible grant a reward to the idea originator or the innovation team but make sure you include everybody involved in this. Exclusion could have a terribly negative effect on a participant’s buy-in.
It might be outdated practice, but I once heard a story about a company who pushed their innovation initiatives with the following grant. Everybody who submits an idea, which gets successfully carried out, will receive 100% of the savings for the first 12 months. To an enterprise this is not a big loss, looking at continuously saved budget, but for the individual with the idea this can mean as much as paying off the loan on the house. Keep this story in mind if you struggle with participation.
Makes sense, does it not? This book is filled with explanations and step-by-step guides like this. Obviously I don’t want to take it all away, so best if you check for some actual reading examples at RobertsRulesOfInnovation.com. In the book you will also find more info to help you build out and manage your innovation task force such as:
- Insight on the disruptive result of innovative working
- Examples on the devastating outcome invoked by the lack of innovation
- Personality check of people you want in your innovation champion team
- Common roadblocks and practices around them
- How to plan initiatives so they will be approved
- How to speak the CEO language and how to collaborate with customers
- All you should know of the fight between innovators and operations
- How to get ideas and how to turn them into projects
Let me finish with the following thought-provoking quote, picked from this book:
“Bureaucracy destroys initiative. There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than the old routines. Improvements always make those at the top of the heap look inept. Who enjoys appearing inept?”
– Frank Herbert, Heretics of Dune
What do you think about this? Would you agree or is that maybe part of the problems addressed in the Dune books? Do you have feedback on Robert’s Rules of Innovation? Whatever your thoughts are, please feel invited to share them below in the comment section. Thanks for reading!
YouTube: Best Business Books for Innovation Management