How do I get started with innovation?

As an established organisation, how do you begin your innovation journey and what is most meaningful to invest in early on?
Who this article is for - C-Suite

This article has been written for C-Suite of medium-large organisations who have the goal of getting your organisation started on the journey of innovation capability building.

We understand some of the challenges you might be facing and so this article's aim is to help you take these first steps.

We understand that your CEO might be asking you to lead innovation while you have many other things on your plate. That you are time poor. That you are concerned about making the wrong first move, anxious that innovation is a buzz term with no real substance. Yet you may be also excited by the opportunity to do innovation and by attaining the status of an innovation leader if you're successful.

Decision-making principles

This article is written on the basis of four base principles which underpin our decision-making as to how to get started with innovation as an organisation.

Building your innovation capability in four steps

We will walk you through four steps for getting started with building your innovation capability - the ability to develop and deliver novel solutions to meaningful problems.

Step one: set goal(s)

Begin by setting specific, measurable and timely goal(s) you want to achieve from investing in innovation.

Is it that you want to develop 5 new revenue streams over 5 years? Is it to improve the return on capital of an existing business offering by 10%? The goal(s) should be based on your business strategy approved by the CEO & board.

A couple of tips:

Step two: establish criteria of what a good idea looks like

The key tactic we are going to focus on is soliciting ideas from your employees. Why? Because you already have a bottleneck of ideas.

What we want to do is set out criteria that guides employees on how to shape and pitch their ideas in a way that can be easily reviewed against set criteria.

How to set your idea criteria:

Step three: solicit ideas

Set up an inbox for employees to send their ideas through to, and then put a call out for ideas across the organisation sharing the criteria for what good looks like and what the goal of the ideas should be.

To make this process more efficient and effective for you, we recommend asking anyone pitching ideas to use a press release & FAQ as their submission tool. We have linked to an explanation of the tool and how to use it by ex-Amazon executives, the company which pioneered this tool as a way to pitch new ideas and initiatives.

A tip on using the PR/FAQ: make the FAQs focused on your idea criteria to make it faster for you to review how this idea delivers on the relevant criteria.

Why we recommend using the PR/FAQ for idea submission:

Step four: review, select and empower

As ideas come in in the form of press release + FAQs, you can easily review and select the ideas which you think are meaningful for achieving your desired goals and that best meet your idea criteria.

Your job then at this point is to empower those who presented the idea - do not create a business case, do not create any more process - give permission to the individual to pursue their idea!

It is essential that these individuals who have presented a good idea are given the opportunity to explore it full-time, so that they can focus on the idea, execute it properly and learn. Give them two weeks to work on it and report back their progress.

Furthermore, as executive, you saying to this person: "Hey, awesome idea. We'd love for you to explore it fully as your job and share back with us", changes your culture. You showed ideas matter in your organisation, you elevated the social status of that individual, so others will copy this behaviour because they want an email from you about how great their idea is (even if it isn't that good), and so ideas start flowing.

Expected objections: what I think you are going to object to

Here's a non-exhaustive list of what I expect your objections might be, consider this my FAQ.

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