The road to innovation is paved with plenty of detours, potholes, and one-way streets. While some of them are unavoidable and unexpected—like a global pandemic—others can be anticipated. And that means they can be thwarted with a bit of strategic forethought.
If you’re tired of only making it halfway to your innovation goalpost, try these strategies. They’ll help you overcome inefficiencies and sidestep common stumbling blocks.
1. Encourage innovations that aren’t necessarily tangible products.
When people hear the word “innovation,” they often think of a tangible item such as a new breed of electric car. However, innovations can be novel ideas and or different systems, too. When you’re in the brainstorming phase with your employees, remind them to see innovation from this type of multi-angled perspective.
FIS, for example, decided to weave corporate social responsibility into every new solution the company released. They created a digital banking platform, Greenwood, specifically to serve Black and Latino individuals and business owners. And during the height of the pandemic, they helped more than 150,000 small businesses impacted by Covid obtain $13.9 billion in loans.
Bottom line? Freeing your team from any misconceptions they have about innovations can open the door to enhanced creativity.
2. Make sure the innovation you invest in solves a real problem.
Not all innovations are created equal. Some sound splashy when you’re sitting around the brainstorming table but just don’t have weight in the real world. The key is to make sure that you evaluate all your innovations against reality before moving forward. Otherwise, you could wind up spending time and cash on an innovation that no one cares about.
When Malbek wanted to reimage the world of contracts, the company started with some of the biggest legal agreement headaches. These included understanding the risks behind confusing legalese. Accordingly, Malbek’s innovators considered how they could leverage AI to rapidly scan contracts to proactively avoid future compliance issues. The result was a protective product that identifies risk factors before parties sign contracts.
On a humorous note, would-be inventor Matty Benedetto has built his brand around constructing innovative items that serve no purpose. Though his Instagram is worth a few chuckles, it remains a good reminder that you have to be careful not to wind up marketing an innovation that’s more of a head-scratcher than anything else.
3. Be able to say goodbye to an innovation’s first iteration.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of an innovative concept or product. Just don’t allow that flood of feelings to get in the way of making tough decisions. Plenty of innovators can’t let go of the first iteration of an idea. This leaves them burning through money—and burned out when they realize they were chasing the wrong dream all along.
Most innovations will go through several lifecycles. A fascinating article from Los Angeles Magazine outlines the origins of a few of the most recognizable societal inventions. Among them is Mickey Mouse. Check out the first cartoon sketchings of what would one day become an internationally beloved character. They carry the seeds of the modern Mickey but aren’t the same by any means.
Admitting that an innovation isn’t working can be difficult for everyone, especially if you’ve put a lot of personal time into it. Nevertheless, knowing when to end it completely or give it an overhaul is a valuable skill that will help keep the innovation cycle flowing.
Ready to hit the ground running with some innovative thinking? First, remove all the known barriers. That way, you and your colleagues will be able to move fast and make progress.