What can be done to make your organization more innovative?

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the rules for conducting business. Now more than ever, innovativeness is one of the essential characteristics that a company needs to develop in order to stay competitive in the changing economic landscape and new trends in consumer behavior. In order to keep your customers happy or attract new customers, the introduction of new business services, products, or processes will be the key to ensuring your organization’s future success. So, how do you foster a working environment that supports innovation within your organization?

In this post, I’ll discuss four proven strategies to enhance the innovative dimension of your company.

1) Embrace a ‘Freedom to Fail’ Culture

Let’s consider 3M, a multi-billion dollar American company, as a shining example of an enormously successful company that is known for fostering an innovative work culture by allowing employees the Freedom to Fail. As pointed out by Art Fry, the inventor of the Post-It Note at 3M, companies that wish to empower the innovative minds within the workplace need to provide freedom to employees: the freedom to fail and freedom to learn from the missteps.

The lesson that freedom can open the door to innovativeness can also be applied to the design of job roles. 

As research shows, flexible job roles can engender more participation in innovation. For example, If you are in the position to hire, instead of creating a bulleted and rigid job description, consider providing room for the next person you hire to mold their responsibilities as they grow into the role. When given the space to think outside-of-the-box of a job description, people will notice opportunities for innovation that they might not have recognized otherwise. The idea is to support everyone in your organization on the quest to identify areas of innovation and provide the space for exploration. 

2) Promote Cross-Functional Communication

When it comes to innovation, cross-functional collaboration in the workplace leads to a greater exchange of thoughts and expertise that can spark the creation of novel ideas. As Gary Hamel said, “too many companies define themselves by what they do rather than by what they know”. Bringing cross-functional teams together to solve company problems is one excellent way to tap the innovative potential of your organization. 

Multi-disciplinary collaboration and coordination are necessary for a new business idea to succeed in concept development and become an innovation. Companies with siloed business departments face an extra challenge in implementing new business concepts since the responsibility to produce innovation is split across different units. If these units experience poor communication, the odds that a new product or service is quickly (or successfully) brought to market are marginal. Both cross-functional and open communication are critical to fostering a culture of innovation in the workplace.

Next, we’ll dive deeper into the importance of differing perspectives when it comes to innovating. 

3) Spark Creativity through Diversity

Creativity includes more than innovation, but innovation inherently includes creativity. At BlueCallom, creativity is treated as the ability to compose ideas by searching the mind for correlations between various lived experiences. Being creative allows us to develop novel concepts. In order to foster an innovative workplace, individual creativity should be celebrated as an organizational resource. It is no secret that when people of different backgrounds and skill-sets are brought together, they can collectively generate great new ideas.

But, what is actually happening through this exchange that enables the creation of potentially breakthrough ideas? Creative abrasion, which is described as a process where different, sometimes clashing, perspectives are integrated (Source: HBR). In a nutshell, this means that in order to cultivate a working environment that leads to innovation, it’s absolutely critical to avoid an innovation monoculture of experts.

At BlueCallom, the Innovation Dream Team is a stage in the Innovation Journey which supports your team to assemble a diverse group of people to support your innovation vision. BlueCallom’s neuro innovation management software will help guide you through this team assembly process with a focus on diversity. 

Regardless of how innovation is handled in your organization, whether it’s a separate unit or a decentralized program, ensuring that people with diverse backgrounds and starkly different approaches are included in the innovation generation process is a productive step towards building a culture of innovation. Unleashing creativity through the diversity of thought is key.

4) Implement an Innovation Management Process

How do you get from a great idea to a tangible innovation?  The answer lies in designing a process that supports innovation within your organization, in other words: innovation management. It’s proven that having a structure and a set of common guidelines in place supports innovation. 

While most existing innovation process models are catered to producing incremental innovations, meaning modest improvements to existing products or services,  BlueCallom has developed a twelve-step innovation methodology with the goal of generating breakthrough innovation. The core of the BlueCallom innovation methodology lies in the ideation process and a technique called Neuro Ideation. Neuro ideation is a brain-stimulating ideation process that unlocks ideas by harnessing the collective creativity from individual experiences. To learn more about neuro ideation, you can check out this webinar or this blog post

Are you interested in more actionable insight into managing innovation? We welcome you to explore our Deep Innovation Design online course

Thank you for reading! Is there any strategy that has worked well for your company that was not mentioned here? If so, please add your comment.

The end of brainstorming – it never led to groundbreaking innovation.

This post was inspired by a direct question for me on Quora. Over a year ago, I was asked a similar question.

Question: “How do successful companies manage the influx of ideas and choose top-notch ideas for inventing new products?

The answer “forced” us to build the first Neuro Innovation Management Software, BlueCallom! We realized it will be the end of brainstorming.

The end of brainstorming - opening up to an all new perspective

Hubble-Telescope Credit: Nasa

A loaded question. Almost like “how do we deal with the size of the universe and select where we want to do research?” We had amazing telescopes – but thinking outside the planet earth and building Hubble was a major breakthrough in many ways.

Answer: The influx of ideas and its selection.

Who says we have to make a selection? Think Hubble – look from the outside. We have to realize that all disruptive businesses we come across were built from pieces of ideas. If we select only a few – it will probably never survive just because we limit ourselves. More detailed questions needed to be answered:

Do we really know how to create a disruptive idea?

Once I realized that I couldn’t answer the following question: “How do you determine if there is an innovation at the end of the process?” we ended up building a Hubble for Innovation. We needed to leave the comfortable sessions, talking about thinking outside the box, thinking big, bold, open blah blah blah… and find our Hubble – Neuroscience.

The pictures we saw were more than spectacular!

We took the ideation process even further and deeper and stimulated an avalanche of idea pieces. In one project, we worked with 25 executives of a large airline, producing 25 x 30+ idea pieces = 750 idea pieces in one process (2 weeks of Neuro Ideation). Since we wanted to assess all ideas and use as many as we could, we ended up needing the computer and a few algorithms to help sort and rank it. Another project consisted of 600 managers from a large pharmaceutical company. We estimated that we aggregated roughly 18,000 idea pieces, of which we also want to take as many as we could. We had to admit, neither our idea collection mechanism nor our algorithm would be good enough for that task; so we decided to build a “machine” (software) to run the show.

Building “OUR” Innovation Hubble

There is no way I can describe all our insights from Neuroscience. However, our core discovery was: “Every idea ever created by a human being, was composed of past experiences.” Meaning we can’t “create any genuinely new idea.” In other words, hoping for ideas to compete in the innovation race is like dancing around a fireplace and hoping for rain. But that is what innovation labs do today.
The day we began to question all that, was the day we realized that innovation could be a logical, manageable and highly success-oriented process.

We’re almost there – currently beta testing. First, “self experiences” almost killed us, putting our own long-term vision on its head. It was even beyond our own expectations.

Neuro Innovation Management and the end of Brainstorming

1) No more limitations – The end of Brainstorming

Don’t limit your golden nuggets (ideas) because we all have been conditioned to a process called “Brainstorming.” While brainstorming was a great start, it never created groundbreaking innovation, and today we know why. Get your team from Brainstorming, yellow Post-Its, and whiteboards to a deep dive into Neuro Ideation. The depth of your ideas will be as different as the depth of the view from Hubble. Instead of ending a brainstorming session with a few “best ideas” leverage them all. Instead of making brainstorming the core of your ideation process, give your brain time to take a deep dive into past experiences, and come up with far more relevant concepts. Neuro Ideation is a two to three-week process and requires a needs and dreams analysis with your market to be prepared. The results will be stunning no matter how creative you may think you are.

2) Tools for things we can’t handle

Remember that we all built tools to overcome our physical limitations. So we need to build amazing tools to extend the limits of our idea process. It brings a truckload of valuable idea pieces. And when we think in that direction, it opens up a whole universe of innovation relevant aspects. We call it Deep Innovation Design.

3) Never forget the innovation purpose

You need to ask yourself some of the old questions: “What problem do you want to solve? Who do you want to innovate for? What value will you provide? 100% of the answers to those questions come from our customers. With Neuro Innovation Management, we can stimulate groundbreaking Innovation on Demand. Our “Innovation Hubble” already showed us pictures that we couldn’t imagine seeing before. We eventually realized that we have to start every innovation project with an “Innovation Opportunity Discovery” project.

P.S.
We feel like Pythagoras when he explained that earth is no disk – when we say “Innovation management is no serendipity,” declaring the end of brainstorming and the beginning of a logical, manageable innovation process.

I hope it gives you some inspiration.

A billion-dollar innovation
is not done with a few
brainstorming meetings.

We started with a big problem (see history below) and have the vision to develop technology for innovation teams to innovate like never before imaginable. Now we are ready to go.

Ready to Callomize

On Wed, Oct 15, we introduced our “Neuro Ideation” methodology. On Tue Nov 24, we will open up for Beta Teams to start beta testing the system and build groundbreaking innovations. The beginning of an amazing journey.

 

A billion-dollar innovation is not done with a few brainstorming meetings.

There is no free lunch. And reading 30 days to get rich isn’t helping you either. There is no known highly disruptive startup that got to their initial concept, product, and market validation in a heartbeat. And there has been no disruptive innovation from larger enterprises in the past 20 years.

Innovation Management Software

We changed how to interact with your computer by helping you move from linear thinking to lateral thinking. You may already know from design thinking that iteration is a big part of the process. On our multi-user digital canvas, you see the facts, research, market data, or other given or provided information on the left-hand side –  right across your logical brain hemisphere. You see your creative responses and constructs, answers, or activities to your right, across your creative brain hemisphere. And the middle field, i.e., Field-9, is the “negotiated summary” or initial outcome. Very much like the brain halves exchange and negotiate information via the Center Callom (Corpus Callosum). Going further down, you find the execution of relevant information. When you start, you will possibly find it odd that everything is so small and so much information. Over time, however, you will not want to go back to lists of data where you need to go back and forth in that linear order. It takes a bit of mind training to get familiar with it, but your thought process will not only become much faster but less distracted.

Innovation is a highly unique process.

Hundreds of thousands of innovative concepts get turned down every year by CFOs in corporations or venture investors by startups. My blog post, “The Initial Value of an Idea is Zero,” is one of my most read blog posts.  And that addresses one of the biggest counterintuitive aspects of innovation. Why spending so much time on ideation if the value is initially zero. And since many executives know that the value is created in the execution, the ideation process became a second class citizen. If we look at the full scope of the Innovation Life Cycle below, you will realize that many steps look like ordinary business activities like producing a prototype or go to market and scaling. But there is a reason we added them to the methodology toolbox of the “Deep Innovation Design” model.

Each of the steps that are supposed to make an innovation successful is profoundly different relative to bring an improved product to market. Market validation is not done when a prototype is created but before any penny is spent building one. Why? Because you can build a prototype of an existing but improved product, and it becomes quickly obvious if it will work or not. Not in the innovation space. With your next-generation product, you go obviously to your biggest customer s first to get this massive initial volume you need to support the massive production line you have. There is no way to do that successfully with groundbreaking innovation. To gain fast access to global markets, you will probably need very different and far more creative ways to enter the markets than the growth strategy from existing improved products. On the other hand, scaling seems to be not a big deal in your existing production environment. The scaling of groundbreaking innovation is fundamentally different because your initial customer base of early adopters is by order of magnitude smaller.

The Deep Innovation Design process superseded any current innovation processes by its width of the end to end innovation lifecycle and the depth of the neuro ideation method.

Innovation Financing

Yet another big challenge is to get funding for an innovative project. You may get paid to innovate, but the innovation will not materialize. Or, as a startup, you build an amazing opportunity, but investors turn you down. Why is that? There is a multitude of reasons, but most have to do with “communication.” It’s an interesting pattern that most highly innovative businesses did not get any funding when they started. Google was not given the tiniest chance, yet the became the global leader. Salesforce had to initially bootstrap for the longest time to get of the ground with funding. Two of my companies the same. The simple answer is:  any groundbreaking innovation is challenging to understand and hard to believe in becoming successful. Only now, when we understand how we compose ideas, going far deeper into our minds to answer, we know how difficult it was to cross the chasm of the obvious ideas and get to the impossible ideas and back to something we can start realizing. A CFO or investor needs to be taken to the very same journey to understand the concept AND its importance. Without a diverse innovation team, this is virtually impossible.

Ready to rock

We are exceptionally excited to open up the door for beta users to join us, help us shape the future of innovation, maybe even the future of learning, thinking, communicating, and a future of human collaboration. Please consider joining our Neuro Ideation intro on Wed, Oct 15, and if you like to beta test BlueCallum com to our beta test webinar on Tue Nov 24.  Or simply get in touch with us at any time. we would love to explore what YOUR ideal way to innovate would be.

P.S.   History

Interestingly, we are a groundbreaking innovation in itself. 2016 we began to help startups methodically create disruptive business models. In 2018 we went deeper into how groundbreaking innovative ideas were created with little to no findings. The entire Internet could not provide an answer – we hit the wall, BOOM. In 2019 we ran by accident into some eye-opening presentations and talks from neuroscientists about how our neural system processes experiences and associates those experiences with each other on the fly. That it helped them to solve all kinds of brain illnesses was less interesting for us. But we found a way to apply those discoveries in the research to find out how innovation is created. After our amazing discovery, how our minds compose and process ideas, we feverishly created methods to apply the newly gained knowledge to innovate like never before imaginable. During initial work with a few big clients, we hit the wall again – BOOM. The early experiments showed that the participants created so many valuable ideas that it was impossible to capture the time [when ideas had been composed], and date volume killed our canvas-based model. With 25 people, it was easy to create 250 valuable idea snippets. If we included customers, we would run into the thousands. The only option to solve the problem was to build a computer model that could capture any number of idea snippets entered at any given point in time, including outside any brainstorming meeting, and include selected customers from around the world to contribute. Mid-February, when the earth seemed to stand still because of covid-19, we started our software development project. The first lines of code were written end of February. The early Beta (more an Alpha Version) was ready 6 months later, and a month later, we had the first two pioneer customers on the system. We knew that, when dealing with the brain, we are opening a can of worms. Today we know it isn’t just a can; it’s a full-size metal oil barrel. We realize we are at the beginning of an all-new era of cognitive technology.

 

 

During school and later in business 90%+ of humans become unknowingly and with no bad intention from others an ever more linear thinker. Everything – and I mean everything – is structured in the next 3, 5, 10 steps to do this or that. Moreover after we see positive results from that mechanism, we even ask : “What are the 3 most important steps to do this or that” or “the 5 most important activities, getting to this or that result” and so forth. When you look at Question and answer board, “Quora”, hundreds of people ask for the three most important skills an entrepreneur should have, not even wonder, if “skills” are needed in the first place. When getting older you hold onto your 7 steps of “anything” that had been most successful throughout your life. Entering a completely new job is terrifying for most people because of ONE FEAR: There must be more than the top 10 steps to success. Yes, we intuitively feel that it is more than that. But we don’t know. All we know is step by step, or linear thinking. Moreover, nobody ever really taught us any different way. But we absolutely can. Being change averse stems from our simplified education to become successful – step by step.

Do we need to think lateral to be innovative?

We have to break one of the biggest rules in our education or in our business lives: to think step by step. As we started to think of methods and techniques to leverage our born ability to be creative, we needed to break something that seem to have nothing to do with innovation: Breaking Linear Thinking. Once we began to address that issue we realized how sever the damage is in our innovation management theories, methods and even technologies when going by the “step by step” model. The next problem was to educate people to think lateral. After trying to tell people how the brain composes ideas from previous experiences by having some of our 86 Billion Neurons connect in new ways with each other – could not come and train them in lateral versus linear thinking. Teach how to think is the hardest training in the first place – so we had to find different ways. The theoretical answer to the question is yes, you need to understand how to think lateral. A far more practical solution however is to experience the results. This goes back to our analogy between the greatest thinker in the world and the most amazing athletes. Both achieve amazing results by using their body in a perfect way – without necessarily knowing each action in each microsecond of their doing. We wanted our innovators to not think how they thing but literally “see” idea streams and focus on the idea, not on the mechanics of your brain.

BlueCallom Canvas Explained

The objective is: to “see” the state of an activity in a lateral representation. We use a pattern that our brain is actually using as well: One part of the information in our thinking process comes from the right half of our brain, the other from the left. A very powerful apparatus, the Corpus Callosum sits in the middle and not only connects the two brain halves it also helps negotiating the idea pieces. And it is the “messenger” between to halves that tries to make sense from the rational impressions and gets the feelings from the other halve. This is why we arranged the fields in a non linear and actually lateral arrangement. Left is what is (rational) – right is what we could consider “creative”. We work on both sides and get to the middle where the signals – the messages – from both sides get negotiated. If in the middle is no agreement we need to go back to rational and see if we considered everything and go to the right side and see if we got the best possible outcome. Once we got a first set of information in phase 1 and some good ideas in phase 2 we bring the core summary int the middle. When verified with the inputs from phase 1, in nearly 100% of the cases, the team goes back to phase 2 and fine tunes whatever they have here. Once satisfying, the needs or requirements etc. get collected and the haves and wants weigh in. At the end of the episode, a decision shall be made how to move forward. For simple processes like in a business model canvas there is not necessarily a decision to be made. But in a ‘BlueCallom’, an entire innovation project, which may take years to complete, the earlier key decisions can be made the higher the success potential or the earlier the whole process can be stopped before it needs serious investments. Instead of verifying and iterating after major milestones, we do the iteration WITHIN EACH EPISODE. It saves time and cost and more importantly it accelerates the act of innovation. Lateral thinking is necessary, yet we don’t need to focus on BEING lateral – instead, SEEING  the process in a lateral way. 

This is why and how we say goodby to linear thinking. A lock-stepped process, going from one to the next, until we finished would be a linear thinking process. We find error or imperfection in either process. BUt in the linear process far too late and it is far too expensive.

The Corpus Callosum has been so inspiring for us that it gave us the name for the company – Callum as short form and the blue from the technical representation of this genius part of nature.