What’s the secret to sustainable innovation?
If you guessed processes, you’d be wrong. It’s the people, the individuals with a name, heart, and soul who stand up for innovation on a consistent basis. And it’s the leader who encourages others to take risks and puts an infrastructure in place to allow innovation to occur every day.
Sustainable innovation is infused in an organization, and it’s renewed by a leader’s ongoing commitment. All good leaders should have time in their year for an outside retreat, which will help rekindle the innovation commitment. A leader who demands that innovation be a key initiative in 2012 must not let it fade in 2013. He should request that his people actively innovate and not punish them if they fail in their attempts.
I worked with the chief of a French oil exploration organization who did this well. He had a vision to transform the organization and created a strategic plan to achieve it. Now his employees understand what is expected, where the organization is headed, and there are innovation teams in place to take action. He’s been very successful, and so has the organization.
What is often overlooked in most organizations, given how people have been trained, is how do you promote and incentivize people who fail? When a respected employee aborts a project after nine months of investment, he shouldn’t be punished for trying.
We need to find ways to make him successful from the experience. I see how much energy and effort teams invest to defend themselves, but failing on projects should be part of the normal life in an innovative company.
Sustainable innovation is rooted in a strong infrastructure and a champion to steer the organization to breakthrough results. Is your organization on the road to sustainable innovation?
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