Five Keys to Innovation

Five Keys to Innovation

Jason Clarke the founder of Minds at Work was the keynote speaker at PDS Group’s Inaugural National Conference in May this year. Jason shares with us his top five keys to Innovation.

Many organisations talk about the need to innovate but don’t know why they want it. They say “Innovation is one of our three core pillars”, and you ask, “what’s it for?” They reply, “I don’t know, but everyone is doing it.” If an organisation can clarify the need for innovation, then it means that the people who are being asked to generate ideas, know what the ideas are for. Just calling for ideas or saying “Let’s commit to innovation,” doesn’t work. You’ve got to say, “These are the things we need to fix and we are interested in ideas on how to fix them”. For example, if, in 1961, JFK had said to 500 engineers, “I think we should sort of explore space”. What is one supposed to do with that statement? However, if he said “I want to go to the moon before the end of the decade, that’s what I want. Just make that happen.” Here JFK has given the engineers a clear target and purpose. For a company such as PDS Group, wanting to make better cities with a focused approach to project managing better buildings in all sectors. Here you need to use innovation because you are looking to improve buildings for human space.

You must find a variety of talent within your organisation. I call it the “IDEA” model. I is for Imagine; D is for Develop; E is for Evaluate; A is for Act. Innovation is four separate cultures. Consider what the staff are good at. For example, the team may be good at Developing, good at Evaluating and good at Acting, however struggle with Imagine. As they don’t value this talent, they don’t take the time to do it. This is common in most organisations that are performance obsessed and risk excited. Traditionally they don’t spend the time asking, “what if and why not?”. Look within your organisation, the talent is there! You don’t need to bring in a consultant, you just need to acknowledge that you have people within your organisation who have this talent and start encouraging them. It is possible for organisations to change by modifying their talent outlook, thus enabling success with innovation.

If someone within the organisation has an idea, what are they supposed to do with it? I would say nine times out of ten, clients launch a commitment to innovation before they have put any processes in place. Without an innovation process creating a pathway for ideas to travel, they will drop off the radar. Almost no one has a process for ideas, because that’s boring, however it’s crucial for innovation.

If you want people to contribute ideas, then you must make it easier for them to do it. For example, if you say, “Kaye’s had an idea,” – brand new, a thought, then I would say, “That’s good, how would it work? Whose budget would it come out of? Who’s going to pay for it? Is it a part of this year’s plan or next year’s plan? Have you worked out how it’s going to integrate?” No, you haven’t. Kaye’s just had a thought, it’s brand new, she doesn’t have the details. It’s an idea and we need to give ideas an “access to all areas stage pass”. You need to clear all the normal institutional barriers. Don’t ask for ideas and then make it hard for ideas to move, that’s just ridiculous. It’s only people in power or influence who can remove those barriers.

We need to reward and recognise people for contributing their ideas to the organisation. If we recognise people for hard work, and we recognise people for being with an organisation for long periods of time, why can’t we recognise and acknowledge people who are innovating within the business? Acknowledging the innovator could be as simple as saying a few words about them at the staff meeting, presenting them with a small gift, drinks and nibbles on a Friday night, etc.. As a general rule, people will stop utilising their talent unless they are acknowledged for bringing their imagination to the workplace, particularly if they have made a positive impact on the organisation.

That’s the big five for Innovation. Whenever I talk to a client I say, these are the things you’ve got to do. If they call me again in a years’ time and they’ve not done one of those things, that’s where it falls over.

Andrew Fortey | Contact

Minds at Work | Website