The Pursuit of Innovation


Imagination is the preview of everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.
– Albert Einstein


Leaders know that in this highly competitive environment, innovation and continual improvement are key to the success of any organisation, regardless of industry.

However, this innovation ‘thing’ is at times like finding the proverbial unicorn, and many organisations struggle to consistently come up with new and innovative solutions for their business.

Recently I was consulting with some executives about how to put together their ‘strategic plan’. It didn’t surprise me to find that they fell into the usual format – industry conditions, competitor analysis, segment deficiencies, opportunities, conclusion, a list of recommendations, a budget and some fancy graphs. When I asked where the strategic plan around innovation was, they couldn’t answer.

This got me thinking, if strategic plans become another thing on people’s ‘to do’ list, rather than encouraging innovative thought and discussion to open up new services, products and markets, how do leaders empower their teams to think about innovation as part of their strategy, and a critical part of their role?

Here are some ideas to think about:

Know what you want. Be clear on your overarching strategy, so the messages and insights you’re selling are simple and compelling.

Make innovation a strategy in itself. Create the expectation that makes innovation part of every persons’ role.

Ask more questions. Leaders at times can confuse curiosity with ignorance and stupidity. Allow yourself and others to ask questions freely to uncover the gems of innovation that will accelerate your business.

Focus on the big picture – not the numbers. When focusing on the numbers, you run the risk of becoming wedded to the traditional planning process, stifling innovation.

Cut out the crap. Take out unnecessary roadblocks and bureaucracy around innovation. You don’t want people getting fed up waiting for things to be approved.