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We usually apply the term "innovation" in hindsight and that makes it a pretty stagnant concept. Once a company succeeds, we can securely credit its innovative people for having innovative ideas. If a company fails, it plainly wasn't innovative enough. But that tells us precious little about the nuts and bolts of innovation, or how we might achieve innovation ourselves.
FutureThink CEO Lisa Bodell explains that innovation is a means, not an end. It's a toolkit and a knowledge set that, if acquired, companies can use to embrace constant change instead of fearing it. Embracing change — the essence of innovation — is accomplished through five behaviors:
Strategic Imagination, Smart Risk-Taking, Resiliency, Agility, and Future Focus
Lisa Bodell's nine-part Masterclass, "Make Room for Innovation," includes A Framework for Creating a Culture of Innovation, Evaluate Risk, and six innovation exercises from Lisa's book Kill the Company. It is available exclusively at Big Think Edge.
Here's a complete list that condenses Bodell's main points:
1. Strategic Imagination is about dreaming with purpose. Many companies favor either being strategic or being creative (and tend to see the other quality as a threat). Strive to have a blend of both.
2. Smart Risk-Taking means setting guidelines for your team and understanding the boundaries of acceptable experimentation. Innovation is about feeling inspired to take initiative, not working with your hands bound in cuffs.
3. Resiliency. Resiliency. Resiliency. We rarely know what works until we try, and sometimes our ideas fail. That's just the reality. So innovative companies understand that failure gets them one step closer to the perfect solution.
4. Agility is about being flexible because change is the only real constant. Are you prepared for wildcards?
5. Future Focus means more than staying ahead of the curve — you've got to look 10-20 years beyond where the curve is now to spot emerging trends. If your time horizon is quarterly earnings, you've got a real problem.
Bodell expands on these ideas at Kill the Company, featuring her book, a five-minute innovation assessment for your company, and an innovation toolkit for some quick wins.
Making Room for Innovation: Key Characteristics of Innovative Companies is available exclusively at Big Think Edge.