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This hack is an effort to provide a framework through which organisations can work through to embed innovation as part of their DNA. The framework is based on four broad steps organisations need to follow in order to innovate by realising dreams - Nurture, Capture, Analyse and Implement.
Innovation is the key to creating and capturing value. It is the main driver for growth and enables business to remain ahead of competitors. Innovation is based on ideas and most ideas start with a great dream, a dream that is taken further and implemented to create great products and services, which provide the platform for future dreams.
“First comes thought; then organisation of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination” – Napoleon Hill.
Organisations that have innovation as part of their DNA are usually very good at capturing, analysing and implementing its ideas. Organisations with long history such as IBM and 3M and more recent ones such as Apple and Google nurture, capture, analyse and implement their ideas, originating usually from within their organisations. The ones that get left behind seem less capable at nurturing and capturing good ideas. New start-ups are usually very good at one off inventions based on a small but great idea, usually a dream of one of its founders. Established organisations need to be more alert to current trends and be very receptive of emerging ideas; capture the new trends and act quickly to stay ahead of the competition.
The essence is to capture dreams and ideas as soon as they emerge and capture them in as much detail as possible. Captured ideas need to be followed through, by analysing its feasibility and outcomes and implemented quickly. Only then organisations can truly create a culture of innovation and base innovation at its core.
The suggested framework through which organisations can work through to transform themselves into an innovative organisation, by realising dreams, relies on four key steps. They are Nurture, Capture, Analyse and Implement. Each step is elaborated below.
Ideas are born out of dreams. They arise spontaneously, usually with no warning or apparent preparation. Great ideas are futuristic and mostly are not bound by known limitations of its times.
Dreams are built on individuals’ circumstances, their backgrounds and the environment. They are usually based on sub-conscious thoughts within sleeping minds. These sub-conscious thoughts of individual members of an organisation have to be nurtured by continuously driving the values and missions of organisations in to the thoughts of the individuals, to incubate good dreams.
Organisations are like families. In a family, the children are usually the ones who come up with the best dreams, dreams that are futuristic and not necessarily bound by what is available and what we see. Such dreams though are based on what the children have been learning, and the parents play a major role in determining what the children see in their dreams, by providing the children the right environment, support and guidance on a daily basis. Organisations will need to provide similar environment and support where employees feel empowered to own the ideas of the organisation, in order to nurture and incubate great dreams from within the organisation.
Exhibit 1 – Nurturing Dreams by reinforcing the core principles of an organisation.
Organisations need to encourage the generation of the right kind of ideas by reinforcing the vision and mission of the organisation continuously and imbibing its core values through its culture, ensuring employees have a sub-conscious connection with the DNA of the company.
“You do things when the opportunities come along. I’ve had periods in my life when I’ve had a bundle of ideas come along, and I’ve had long dry spells” – Warren Buffett
Once great ideas emerge, the first thing organisations need to do is to capture them instantaneously. This is possible only when it is captured, as soon as we wake up. Formal processes / workshops is not necessarily the ideal method to capture the essence of the intensity of the moment.
Organisations usually have forums in which individuals discuss and refine innovative ideas and conduct workshops in which they brainstorm new and emerging ideas. They are good ways of capturing innovative ideas and following through results in some great innovations. However, a large number of organisations miss a trick when they fail to capitalise on great opportunities, because of a lack of outlets to capture dreams quickly.
Exhibit 2 – Capturing Dreams by casting porous wide nets.
To capture ideas and ensure the best ones, the ones organisation is interested in, are not lost, organisations should cast nets. Cast the nets as wide or as narrow as desired, based on the strategy of the organisation, and make them porous so external ideas can stroll in and internal ideas may fall through. This would also provide outlets for the freedom of flow of ideas.
In families, in addition to continuous informal discussions, just as parents provide children formal outlets to children, e.g., getting children to write to Santa Claus with their wishes, similarly, organisations need to provide both formal and informal ways of gathering ideas.
Organisations need to provide simple ways of capturing ideas, wishes and thoughts of its individual members. They should provide very simple interfaces, such as simple apps, a direct phone number or a straightforward website where all ideas can be recorded. This will ensure ideas, no matter how small or great, are not lost.
“To turn really interesting ideas and fledgling technologies into a company that can continue to innovate for years, it requires a lot of disciplines” – Steve Jobs
Once ideas are captured, not all of them will be worth pursuing or can be realistically achievable. The next step is to evaluate the feasibility, possibilities and limitations of what can be achieved. Innovative organisations employ a number of formal methods, from analytical to market based ones, to evaluate the potential of an idea.
Exhibit 3 – Analysing Ideas by simple four quadrant framework
Based on whether an idea is a good fit with the tangible and intangible qualities of the organisation, e.g., Value creation and Alignment to the Organisations strategies, four possibilities arise. The idea can then be discarded, may need further contemplation or evaluation or can be acted upon immediately.
The four possibilities as identified in the framework above are described as follows.
Discard – If an idea is not aligned to the organisations vision and seems to have very little value creation potential, then discard it. However, handle the ideator with care, in order not to dishearten the individual members and be very transparent about the reasons.
Evaluate – If an idea is not aligned to the organisations vision, but seems to have potential to create value, either to the organisation or to its customers, then use it as an opportunity to reassess the strategy of the organisation and adapt if necessary.
Contemplate – If an idea is aligned to the organisation, but has little value creation potential, it may not be worthwhile investing in the innovation. In such a situation, again, handle the ideator with care and explain the reasons for the decision and allow break away groups to continue with the idea if they so wish.
Act – Ideas that are aligned to the organisations visions and have potential to create value would be the defining innovations that would secure the future of an organisation. Pursue such ideas vigorously and start implementation immediately, with adequate infrastructure and sufficient resources to ensure its success.
Just as not all dreams of children are fulfilled, because of tangible and intangible pressures on the family, opportunities can be filtered through a structured thought process, before making the decisions that would have long term consequences for the organisation. Organisations need to use a simple framework similar to the one above, to analyse all ideas and decide on the ones worth pursuing.
“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work” Colin Powell.
Once the potential of the dream is evaluated to be high, implementation will need a lot of courage, resources and effort to realise it. An implementation team must be formed carefully, with a team of varied abilities, with unique skills and distinct perspectives.
The implementers usually have great dislike for the mundane and prefer little distraction from their purpose. A combination of formal and informal arrangements must be applied carefully to realise the potential of each idea. The trick is to hide the finer details, such as financial limitations, economic pressures and competitive analysis, from the implementation team and provide them a platform on which they can play with their dream, realise it and fine tune it.
Exhibit 4 – Implementing ideas by providing resources and support
In families children are well protected from the pressures of the real world, and they usually get their way with reasonable fancies and wants. This care-free environment is most conducive to providing the best ideas. Organisations must aim for such care free environment where individuals could work on their ideas better.
“Innovation can be found in every organisation” – David Gann.
To make innovation a systematic and enduring capability, organisations need to encourage idea generation, by continuously reminding members of its vision, capturing the ideas and working on them by analysing and implementing the right ideas. Organisations need to act on each idea and be alert to the “light bulb” moments.
Exhibit 5 – Complete framework
This hack is an effort to provide a base framework, on which organisations wishing to incorporate innovation as part of their DNA, can benefit. By nurturing the generation of the right kind of ideas, capturing them as soon as ideas spring up, filtering and identifying the right ideas and implementing them, continuously, organisations and individuals within them, organisations will provide themselves with immense opportunities to prosper.
The first step starts by nurturing each and every member of the organisation and encouraging the right kind of thinking, based on the principles of the organisation. It will be an important first step in making organisations future proof.
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” (Machiavelli)
By consistently capturing ideas, nurtured by carefully inculcating the values of the organisation within the sub-conscious minds of the individual members and encouraging innovative streak internally, continually working on generating ideas and acting towards implementing them as products and services, organisations will become the choice of employees and will attract talent with inquiring minds in to its folds. In addition, it will also gain the respect of the wider community. This will lead to a virtuous cycle and embed innovation as a core competency enabling such organisations to truly lay claim to be innovative organisations and be recognised as such, by society and the larger world.
Utterback, James, Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation, Harvard Business School Press, 1996.
Hamel, Gary and Prahalad, C. K., Competing for the Future, Harvard Business School Press, 1994.
Dodgson, Mark and Gann, David, Innovation: A Very Short Introduction, OUP Oxford, 2010.
Johnson, Steven, Where Good Ideas Come From, Penguin Books, 2010.
Creating Breakthrough Innovations, Harvard Business School Press, 2006.