Monday, February 25, 2008

Innovation – what a consultant will not tell you

Have you noticed how consultants and academics tend to turn innovation into a highly complex system involving numerous processes, approaches and models (requiring you to spend even more on consultants)?

Such systems are promoted by consultants who charge by the day for implementing and teaching their complex systems - which require many, many months to implement. Worse, consultants scare their clients into believing that not implementing the consultants' system will lead to failure. Indeed, when the system does fail, the consultant can easily blame the client for not implementing the complex system properly.

But, these consultants are wrong! Innovation need not be complex. In fact, complex systems actually stifle creativity and hence innovation. Most organisations contain many creative thinkers and innovators: their employees; and many external creative thinkers: their customers. All that they require is:
  • The ability to make people comfortable about sharing their ideas and to make mistakes without suffering any consequences.
  • That management demonstrate their commitment and ability to be creative themselves.
  • Budget - funds will be necessary, however they will be modest in comparison to the demands of the consultants!
  • Tools for capturing and managing ideas, techniques for generating and shaping ideas and a method of measuring the fruits of your labours.
  • Space and more importantly time to meet, share ideas or just think.
  • Rewards, a fair system that rewards idea generation, knowledge sharing and team working.
How all of these components come together will vary from firm to firm. What is important is that these components exist, that there is flexibility and that ideas are implemented. Of course these components of corporate innovation are greatly simplified. Nevertheless, they provide the mainstay of an innovation plan.

So don't let the expensive consultants fool you. An innovation strategy is relatively easy provided you have the commitment, the desire and resources. It should fit your organisation with minimal disruption and you should not be left with a strong dependency on any outside organisation.

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