Companies seem to have automatic “immune systems” which are designed to protect the status quo and as a result reject new innovation — especially breakthrough innovation.
Innovation is a tricky area to navigate for most organizations: naysayers abound when it comes to changes, the element of risk makes people shy away from accepting innovative ideas, and in large organizations, the approval process for such changes is slow and full of roadblocks. There tends to be a ‘problems’ mindset rather than a solutions mindset.
I think the word itself, innovation, scares some people away. Often people confuse innovation for invention and think they need to completely reinvent the wheel to have a successful innovation. This is not always the case. Innovation is more about taking something that already exists and improving upon it or doing something in a different way. All financial organizations are doing innovation to some degree — much great work has been done — yet most of it remains in the labs or the petri dish.
True innovation needs to become real and shake up the real world, some of the ways I think you can achieve this include:
- Focus on fixing a really painful problem – do not start with a solution or product that nobody really wants or needs (remember New Coke?). People like innovation that takes the pain away.
- Avoid having your innovation team operate in a silo; if you want your organization to accept new ideas, make sure that the team has “real world credibility” within your organization so that they are trusted when they bring strange new things forward
- Include people who can bring a fresh perspective to the group, while still understanding how the organization and current landscape operates; similarly, discourage those whose default answer to new ideas is only to throw up barriers without potential solutions
- Make headway early on with an innovation project by shaping the real world implementation into something that the organization is familiar with — give it a familiar structure such as a project, merger, or acquisition. It is easier for people to accept and understand something that they have seen unfold before.
- Consider all of the ideas and permutations, then deliver them in appropriately sized pieces which will allow for success
- Appoint stewards from each line of command in the organization to ensure that the project progresses quickly — short-circuit bureaucracy wherever you find it; but with an appropriate view on safety and soundness
So instead of killing that next great innovation by allowing the immune system to reject it, give it a structure and some momentum to allow it to overtake the resistance and succeed.