Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Innovation Gift Giving

We find ourselves near the end of another fruitful, eventful year, here at December 19, 2017.  All eyes turn toward the holidays (actually, the merchandising happened in October and the Christmas muzak started in early November it seems).  While there are a few working days left in the month, and year, I thought I'd offer up some ideas for those individuals who are hard to shop for on your lists.  Today, gifts for the frustrated corporate innovator.

The Frustrated Corporate Innovator
We all know one of these, and in some cases this may be you.  You've longed for the rights to create some really interesting new products and services.  You've noticed product gaps and market opportunities ripe for the plucking.  Yet the organization you or your friend works for is too conservative, too risk adverse or simply too focused on existing products and services to spend time innovating.  There are several gifts I can offer you:

  1. The gift of freedom.  If you honestly believe that the opportunity is out there, and that you have insights that no one else has, then give yourself the gift of freedom.  Go and solve that problem.  Alone or with a small team.  If your existing company or organization can't or won't see the opportunity, and you have passion for the need, don't wait.  Getting frustrated by the decision making processes and slow reaction times of larger corporations isn't the answer.  Give yourself the gift of freedom to pursue the opportunities you see.  This may mean switching teams or even leaving your company.
  2. The gift of success.  If the first option is too radical (like the crazy holiday sweaters you know the recipient won't wear) then how about this:  just do something radical within your organization with the resources you can cobble together.  Don't ask for permission, ask for forgiveness after your idea becomes a success.  Innovators can't afford to wait.  Trying to get everyone to consensus is an exercise in cat herding in a room full of rocking chairs.  Success is first its own reward, and second an opportunity to build on.  If you can't get approval for everything, give yourself approval to do something and build on the success.
  3. The gift of education.   There's always room in every budget for training or gaining new skills. After all, gaining new skills is important for personal growth and it's also probably a component of your annual review.  Identify new training or educational opportunities to learn new skills or new methods.  Enrich your own portfolio of innovation techniques, design thinking techniques, open innovation methods or a host of other capabilities.  Even if you don't get to actually implement the training, you'll add to your own resume.
  4. The gift of involvement and community.  There are a lot of interest groups and organizations that examine innovation and meet to discuss successes, failures and learnings.  Here in the Carolinas we meet regularly and once a year have an innovation conference focused on local innovators.  There are plenty of conferences and events, national and local, where you can meet with and discuss your ideas and what you want to get done.  Or, go help out a nascent entrepreneur or innovator who needs help getting a new idea off the ground.  Go meet some people who share your passion and can leverage your energy.
  5. The gift of a book.  When I was a kid, everyone wanted to give me books, when what I really wanted were footballs or baseball bats or fishing rods.  Now, everyone wants to give me sweaters and ties when what I really want are books.  Good books about innovation are perhaps one of the best gifts you can give yourself, or give to a potential innovator.  Here's a list of some of the books I recommend constantly (note some favoritism for a special author on the list)
    1. The Innovator's DNA - great book about some traits or characteristics of good innovators
    2. The Art of the Long View - good book on trend spotting and scenario planning
    3. Think Better by Tim Hurson
    4. Innovator's Dilemma
    5. Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore
    6. Relentless Innovation and/or Outmaneuver by yours truly
    7. Open Innovation by Chesbrough
    8. Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley
    9. Ten Types of Innovation by Larry Keeley
    10. Business Model Generation
    11. Blue Ocean Strategy
    12. 101 Design Methods
    13. Making innovation work
      There - a baker's dozen of good innovation books that make a great gift for yourself, your boss (good way to hint at opportunities), your team or someone you know.
  6. The gift of complacency and serenity.  When all else fails, or seems too bold, like wearing a sweater that lights up and plays football theme songs, then give yourself the gift of complacency.  Acknowledge that innovation is difficult, risky and fraught with danger and uncertainty, and simply allow yourself the peace of knowing that innovation is simply too much to take on.  Give yourself and your co-workers some peace and become the most efficient and effective worker you can be.  There's nothing wrong with doing things exceptionally well. Perhaps a gift of the Serenity prayer?
Regardless of what you give, or get this holiday season, make a new commitment going into the new year to do more, think more, advocate more, train more, commune more, read more, and risk more for innovation.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 7:57 AM


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