Innovate or Die: Evaluating your organization’s “innovation quotient”

Editor’s note: Yesterday I gave a presentation called “Innovate or Die: Creating and nurturing a culture of innovation” at The Partner Event, an annual conference and networking event for businesses in the Microsoft Dynamics channel. I’ll be posting some of my presentation notes, and observations based on the discussion with my audience, over the next few days.

How do you figure out where your organization is on the “Highly Innovative/Not Innovative” continuum? Here are some ideas:

1. Look in the mirror. Do you actively model creativity and innovation? Do your team members see you doing creative, innovative things?

2.    Do your team members think of themselves as being creative?

Mindset is absolutely essential. In his classic book on creativity, A Whack on the Side of the Head, Roger Von Oech tells about a major oil company that brought in a team of psychologists to try to figure out the difference between its creative engineers and its not-so-creative engineers. “After three months of study, the psychologists found that the chief differentiating factor that separated the two groups was: The creative people thought they were creative, and the less creative people didn’t think they were.”

Why is mindset so important? Because it’s changeable.

3.    Do team members understand that they are all supposed to be innovators?

Make it clear that creative ideas aren’t restricted to a select few; that everyone can and should share their ideas, and do so prolifically.

4.    Do they have the tools/skills needed for creative thought?

5.    Is your organization infested with “idea killers?”

(The following list is from Myths of Innovation, by Scott Berkun:)

  • We tried that already.
  • We’ve never done that before.
  • We don’t do it that way here.
  • That never works.
  • Not in our budget.
  • Not an interesting problem.
  • We don’t have time.
  • Executives will never go for it.
  • It’s out of scope.
  • People won’t like it.
  • It won’t make enough money.
  • How stupid are you?
  • You’re smarter with your mouth shut.

You should seek out and remorselessly destroy idea killers in your organization. Idea killers are NOT the same as genuine critical thinking about an idea, asking probing questions, and offering useful feedback and information.

Creating and nurturing a culture of innovation
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