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Innovating Innovation

With the Innovating Innovation challenge we’re looking for your stories and hacks on how to make innovation a real capability in organizations.  With the Quick MIX, we gave you an easy way to engage and inspire others on a related question: what is the one thing you’d change to make organizations more innovation-friendly?

Like the M-Prize, this process was open to everyone.  The best contributions are being recognized on our blog, on HBR.org, and in the social media channels of the MIX, Harvard Business Review and McKinsey & Company.

What is the one thing you'd change to make organizations more innovation-friendly?

Submitted Ideas

End the creative apartheid now!

Idea by Michele Zanini on November 20, 2012
For the most part, innovation is still relegated to organizational ghettos--it is still the responsibility of dedicated units like new product development and R&D, where creative types are kept safely out of the way of those who have to "run the business." In a world where innovation is more essential than ever, this sort of chauvinism is wrongheaded. If folks don't appear to be creative at work, it's not because they lack imagination--it's because they lack the opportunity and support.

Truly flatten the organization

Idea by Ben on November 20, 2012
As Clay Shirky has pointed out, technology has dramatically lowered the cost of coordinated action, and formal, command-and-control organizational structures from the industrial era are frequently unnecessary, if not counterproductive . Removing hierarchical friction and empowering all parts of the organization to participate in innovation would have an immediate and substantial impact on innovation-friendliness. Truly flatten the corporate organization; don't just talk about it.

Draft a social contract for innovation with your team

Idea by Ivan Gonzalez on November 21, 2012
Recently, we drafted one not only for innovation but for all of our decision-making processes. A social contract is basically an agreement among ourselves which tells us what principals will govern our interaction with each other. We landed on these: Be fully present. Speak your truth as you know it now. Experience discomfort. Expect and accept non-closure. Confidentiality. Gentle reminders. Watch your airtime- 2x B4 me. "Ouch!". A 24-hour rule. It has helped us innovate very fast!

Get things (incl. innovations) done collaboratively, with a “checks and balanced", three branch organization structure!

Idea by Charles Prabakar on December 6, 2012
Among all Gov models, the “checks & balanced”, 3 branch model, seems, one of the best- as it, inherently motivates all branches to collaborate & GETS THINGS DONE, without anyone, becoming too powerful. Hence, I suggest a 3 branch org structure for corporations as well, with the CEO as the President, the BU heads as senate, the enabling function heads (HR, Strat, Fin, Proc, IT etc.) as congress, the board as judiciary, & the shareholders as citizens-all collaborating together, to get things done!

Jack and the Innovation Beanstalk

Idea by Alan Gard on November 30, 2012
It's a familiar story: Jack has some lowly regarded beans. After they get thrown to the soil they are revealed as magic beans. To drive innovation, get the organization believing they EACH are Jack with magic beans. This requires leadership's repetitive messaging. Then create an innovation farm, the place where everyone knows they can plant their magic beans, removing the barrier of "I don't know where to go with this idea." Nurtured well these seeds will produce an innovation harvest.

Lead from the Top

Idea by Angela Woodin on November 26, 2012
The priority of innovation should be clearly communicated to all employees - innovation to be clearly articulated in the business Strategy, Leader Behaviours, and required in every person's goals. Innovation needs to be on the agenda of meetings, and achievements encouraged, recognised and rewarded by the leaders. Leaders to walk the talk. Without this leadership, everything else (tools, culture, process, etc) fails - people must be empowered & encouraged by consistent messaging from the top.

Facilitating Idea Organization and Exploitation from the Bottom Up

Idea by P T Navendra on November 19, 2012
In many larger organizations, great innovation opportunities hit the graveyard on the ground-floor of management. While higher-up support and sponsorship is needed in both funding and training opportunities, ground-floor personnel should be empowered to self-organize, collaborate in healthy competition, and let innovation bubble up from the bottom. Too much upper-management involvement, no matter how good the intent, invariably invokes the invisible hand of conformance and nueters the process.

Practice Selfless Leadership

Idea by Nan Mehta on November 20, 2012
Managers/leaders practice selfless leadership where they serve their employees rather than manage/direct them. They coach and inspire creative thought; then, remove org. obstacles, be an advocate, take the ideas up the appropriate chain to gain it visibility and get it implemented. Selfless leaders can manage less because when employee creativity is inspired; employees naturally manage themselves. They are self-disciplined, focused and engaged. Result: a contagious, innovation-friendly culture.

Consistently, recognize and reward free, bold, fresh thinking - formally and informally

Idea by Sridhar Dhulipala on November 20, 2012
On the premise that in any business environment, there is no problem that exists without some sort of feasible solution. It could come from customer facing roles, internal operations, HR, any corner of the organization and outside; from partners, vendors, customers. To create an innovation-friendly organization, it has to begin with a culture that encourages bold, fresh, free thinking, as a consistent, visible initiative that everyone aspires to, de-linked from other formal programs.