Innovation often gets a bad wrap. To many, innovation is a pretty undisciplined approach where anything goes and nothing really happens. As a result of this we often see organizations cycling from free radical ideas to tightly controlled processes, neither of which achieves the right outcomes.

It’s not the idea of innovation that is the problem; it is the approach that organizations use. So why not try a different approach?

Start with the end in mind

Rather than starting at the beginning, why not start with the end in mind? If you have an appreciation of what the best possible outcome would be as a result of your efforts in innovation, articulate it and set people free to create it. By being specific about the outcomes you are seeking (without micro-managing) you harness your people’s thinking to the best possible result. They can still come up with radical ideas, but then they have to test those ideas against the outcomes you require.

Make your challenge big

If you want big innovation, then create big challenges. Look at the results that are achieved in labs all around the world, with little challenges such as curing cancer, or putting man on the moon. Making people seek something that they think is big can be empowering and helps them let go of the current thinking (it is also a great team building activity to work together to accomplish extraordinary things). And imagine what else they might discover as they search for a big solution.

Give people a specific challenge

It is hard for people to think about the next big thing when there are so many issues with the way things currently work, so what not think innovatively about current problems holding your business back and think about radical ideas another day? Identify key problems (ones that resonate with them) and issue the challenge, “who has got an idea for how we could solve this problem?” Let people self-organize into teams (a type of team building activity without the trust exercises), and get creative about how to fix the situation.

So if you’ve tried innovation before and have put it to the side because it’s not for you, try thinking about the approaches you have used, and consider if one of these may just work a little better for your organization.

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Written by Lisa Smith

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Lisa is a professional thinker dedicated to helping people unlock their innate creativity and to empower them to think differently – for themselves. She is passionate about building innovative cultures and about harnessing and engaging talent to create thinking communities. Lisa holds an MBA, specialising in organisational change and innovation, which forms the nucleus of her work. She relishes opportunities to share the Minds at Work thinking strategies with government bodies, socially responsible corporate, educators, community groups and farmers, helping them to turn their big ideas into realities.