Organizations don’t innovate, people do. Organizations that are admired for being especially innovative don’t hire genetically different people than are available to the rest of us, they just make different managerial choices that allow their people to be more innovative. Leadership does this (or, doesn’t), and, as a result, innovative people deserve innovative leaders!
So, what can you do in the coming year to become a more innovative performer, or leader? Over the past two years (2012 and 2013), I’ve suggested a small set of innovation resolutions that would help anyone become more innovative, and which did not require investments, the mastery of new skills, nor require “permission” from above. This year, in anticipation of trying to become more personally innovative in 2014, and in the spirit of inclusiveness(which was among my 2013 resolutions), I have invited a number of friends who I admire for their insights into innovation to share their resolutions. What follows is, I think, a thoughtful, relatively global and certainly ambitious set of advice, all of which has one overall objective: to make us all more innovative in 2014! In each instance, I have also included their twitter address so that they can be followed throughout the year.
Abhijit Bhaduri: Chief Learning Officer of Wipro WIT +0.73%, author of Don’t Hire The Best & the MBA series: “My innovation resolution for 2014: Think of everything that annoys me as an opportunity to innovate. In addition, I will hold weekly conversations with millennials to understand how they dream. We have enough twenty somethings in Wipro!” @AbhijitBhaduri Last year, Abhijit posted a set of fascinating resolutions for 2013 for The Times of India, that are well worth considering as well!
Alex Osterwalder: lead-author of BusinessModel Generation, Co-Founder ofStrategyzer.com: “In 2014, my team and I at Strategyzer.com aim to reach 1 million senior business leaders around the world. We intend to convert 100’000 of them into avid practitioners of the business (growth) tools of the 21st century – away from the arbitrary and unproductive traditional board room conversations that dominate strategy & innovation today.” @AlexOsterwalder
Sergio Monsalve: Silicon Valley VC — Partner, Norwest Venture Partners (&, full-disclosure, my son-in-law) “I will do one thing a week that takes me out of my routine and comfort zone. I will ask more questions and be a better listener. I will leverage our Monday partner meetings as an opportunity to share best practices. I will put down my phone and clear my mind more often.I will spend more time asking my kids questions and learning from them … They will “love” that.” @VCSerge
Tim Kastelle: Teacher of innovationmanagement at the University of Queensland Business School: “Schedule time for thinking & creating. It’s too easy to get caught up on things that keep me busy, & that detracts from the value I create.” @timkastelle
Greg Satell: @Forbes contributor, publisher of digitaltonto.com blog, formerly holding strategy and innovation roles in Publicis Groupe: “To listen better and give new ideas more thought before I reject them” @digitaltonto
Steve Denning: @Forbes contributor, author of The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace, formerly Program Director, Knowledge Management at the World Bank: “My 2014 resolution: catalyze, reinforce and accelerate the coalition of thought leaders who embrace the ongoing economic phase change that is based on continuous innovation” @stevedenning
Bart Doorneweert: Value Chain Developer at LEI-Wageningen UR, and founder of Value Chain Generation:
“Reconciliation of doubt with self-esteem: Doubt is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if it’s justified under a given circumstance. When dealing with the ambiguity of innovation and its hard hitting lessons, doubt can eat up your self-confidence. You start asking yourself questions like: “Am I doing the right thing?” “Probably there are 100′s of people out there who know far better how to decide than me”. “Why must I always put myself in these situations?!”.
Yet, always be aware that the situation you’re dealing with is inherently uncertain, and these questions can’t be answered directly. So, instead of asking these questions to yourself, ask the people around you for bearings. Involve them in the conversation. Don’t let your sense of self-esteem prevent you from reaching out due to some kind of misplaced fear that you will look bad. Rather, muster pride in throwing these questions out there.
Generally I find that this is the way to get confidence back on its feet and to create those valuable next steps. Doubt is only the strongest soft signal that something really interesting is about to emerge.” @BDoorn
Shaun Coffey: experienced company director and Chief Executive of a variety of Australian & New Zealand private and public organizations: “Challenge to process: Just because it worked once, doesn’t mean it will work again. Every situation, every opportunity is different. People are different, and people change. A spectacularly successful intervention may not work in a new situation. It may not even work in the same situation again because the people will have changed as a result of the experience. Look for new ways to keep achievement high, stay aware of how people are responding. Look for signs that something isn’t working, and try something else. Don’t get stuck in your ways as that will block ideas. Your way may not be the better way.” @ShaunCoffey
Estelle Métayer: founder and Principal of Competia, former McKinsey consultant and educator, painter, pilot and trend-spotter: “Play More. Learn from kids. Build stuff. Learn a trade. Micro-travel ( travel within 2 miles of your home).” @Competia
Ralph-Christian Ohr: Senior Consultant on Innovation Management with emphasis on energy, utilities and integrative innovation: “My personal innovation resolution: take an integrative approach to managing innovation.Most discussions about exploration vs. exploitation, radical vs. incremental innovation, experimentation vs. processes, intuition vs. analysis, emergence vs. structure, push vs. pull, open vs. closed, long vs. short term etc. are misleading. Sustainable innovation entails inherent tensions to be managed appropriately, depending on a company’s particular innovation context. We therefore need to apply integrative and systemic thinking, rather than one-sided approaches, to foster successful innovation management in the new year ahead.” @ralph_ohr
Josie Gibson: corporate networks executive, co-founder ofwheretofromhere?, and founder of Pourquoi: “May 2014 see policy/business leaders embrace the potential of 3D printing and other emerging innovations to reinvent manufacturing.” @Pourquoi
What we have here is, in a sense, a microcosm of the conversations that are defining contemporary innovation: the ambitious visions [bigger dreaming] of both Alex Osterwalder,who is unwilling to rest “until senior executives and entrepreneurs operate like surgeons!”, and the macro-societal sensitivities of Josie Gibson for the tough times that Australia has been going through, plus an abiding faith that innovation can prove the difference between today and tomorrow. Steve Denning’s and Ralph-Christian Ohr’s recognition that traditional strategic thinking is no longer reliable to take us to where we need to go, and that we need to change our patterns of how we learn and think about the world around us, and then the immanently practical and personal suggestions as to how to do this by: Estelle Métayer, Sergio Monsalve, Tim Kastelle, Shaun Coffey, Bart Doorneweert, Greg Satell and Abhijit Bhaduri. The fact that so many of these seers, from so many different walks of life, all recognize a need to learn differently, and from different people, is vivid testimony to the need for greater inclusiveness in our idea-networks. The fact that all of them recognize that the principal agent for accomplishing this is the manager him/herself, places the responsibility squarely in each of our laps.
We are all heading into 2014 together. Some will do it better than others, but almost always it is those who are dreaming big about what they wish to achieve, and also paying attention to the processes by which they can raise the odds of actually realizing their desired achievement, that will emerge successful. The collection of innovation resolutions presented here addresses both bigger dreams and practicalities — dreams and details — that, when combined, can lead to improved innovation performance in the year to come.
Bill Fischer is the co-author of Reinventing Giants (with Umberto Lago & Fang Liu) (Jossey-Bass, 2013), as well as The Idea Hunter (with Andy Boynton & Bill Bole) (Jossey-Bass, 2011) andVirtuoso Teams (with Andy Boynton, FT/Prentice Hall, 2005)). Bill can be followed on Twitter at @bill_fischer