Many companies today are looking for the Innovation Fix. For seasoned innovation gladiators (I’m starting to see my grey hairs now) the question most often asked by those who seek the Innovation Fix is:
“What is the one thing that you see that makes an organisation successful at innovation”?
I like many others will have given many different answers over the years but now I only have one response; “Investment”.
Organisations who do innovation well, invest in the appropriate resources to create their success. Those who experiment with little or no true funding of innovation are often disappointed that they have not been able to replicate the success of others who clearly have.
It should be no mystery but surprisingly it is and like anyone over the age of 40 will testify, those who maintain their physique of their formative years, invest in eating healthy and going to the gym regularly and consequently look, bar a few wrinkles and perhaps a few grey hairs, in great shape. Innovation, unsurprisingly, is pretty much the same. When companies start-off they are naturally innovative. Likewise in our youth we had time, we were in college/university, socially exercised and of course had high metabolisms that allowed us to eat loads, stay out late and for some drink to some considerable degree or other. As we get older, however, the addition responsibilities – jobs, mortgages, marriage, children etc. We have less time to exercise and more often than not we stop doing it all together. In turn we become a little bit heavier and perhaps not as athletic as we once were. Companies are the same. As they grow the attention moves away from being innovative to be being operationally efficient and expanding (perhaps not in the sense of a waistline) but replicating what they do nationally, regionally and for some globally.
Eventually companies like people hit a wall. They can’t grow anymore doing what they have always done or as in my case, having my wife point out 2 pictures, one of me today and one from some years ago on our honeymoon. So we need to get innovative there are no short cuts, no magic diet pills or electronic muscle pads, we need to invest in time, money and importantly in the people, skills and knowledge.
Thankfully I have seen a real step change in the last 2-3 years with companies who have finally started to understand innovation isn’t about doing something amazing with nothing. They are hiring people, creating teams, programs, facilities, tools, funding, strategy and governance. We’re moving away from the rhetoric of endless annual reports stating that innovation is a top 3 priority for CEOs and we are seeing more consistent investment and in turn results. We’re not there yet but the waistline of many companies is looking a lot better than it did. As for me, I’m off to the gym and avoiding the cookie jar.