Developing the ‘innovation habit’

Back in July last year, I told you a story about how an innovation mindset brings fast results—in that particular case, in our work with PostNord.  It was clear from the subsequent engagement and conversations I had around that story that the sentiment struck a chord.

So now that we’re a few months down the line, I wanted to expand a little on the theme. The innovative approach we took with PostNord and its CEO Kenneth Verlage resulted in a huge boost to PostNord’s ambition to participate competitively in the marketplace as an e-commerce player—but that’s not the end of it. Because the truth is, single triumphs (no matter now satisfying they may be) are not the end game of innovation. And nor should they be.

In the PostNord story, I described the innovation mindset as an essential business tool. To advance the argument further, I’d say that just as important as the right mindset is the ‘innovation habit’, if you want to see true progress in your organization beyond a single (or set of) successes.

Why? Because innovation, a bit like artistic creativity, cannot simply be summoned. You can’t just wait for it to strike—innovation doesn’t work that way. If innovation is a state of mind, then we need to exercise that state of mind rigorously, consistently and often. When I worked at Ericsson Research, I instigated a weekly one-hour innovation meeting for my team. ‘Can you really be innovative every Thursday at 9am?’ you may cynically ask. Well, actually, yes, you can.

What we did in that hour was commit to innovation, dedicating a place and a time to our individual and collective innovative mindsets. Sometimes this resulted in little ideas that helped us do things incrementally better. And sometimes—just sometimes—those innovation hours were the birthplace of big ideas. The ones that have the potential to change everything. What’s more, this meeting reminded us that innovation was actively welcomed in our team and demonstrated to everyone how much we valued innovation. And sure enough, over time, innovative thinking—actively using that innovation mindset and doing, rather than simply talking—became a habit, engrained in all of us.

Kenneth, my client at PostNord, and I are now planning to use a similar approach in his organization. Having experienced first-hand the value of the innovation mindset, we’re both now keen to ensure that innovation becomes a way of being, not just an occasional occurrence. Key to that is ‘just doing it’ and a dedicated time and space for innovation is a great enabler.

I am delighted to have been asked to speak at IBM’s forthcoming InterConnect 2016 (Las Vegas, 21-25 February) alongside Kenneth, on the work we have done together to date. We’ll be talking about how we leveraged the innovation mindset with enabling tools like IBM’s Bluemix to bring results far faster than Kenneth could have initially imagined. But, I hope, we’ll also be learning from our colleagues and peers in Las Vegas, with our innovation mindset firmly tuned in to the ideas and possibilities that are out there.

You can follow our learnings and observations from InterConnect on Twitter at @gregerwikstrand and @verlage and catch our presentation on 23 February at 1.15pm in Mandalay Ballroom L if you happen to be there in person. In the meantime, I’d highly recommend the ‘just do it’ approach—create a regular time and place for innovation and see what’s possible. It might just be the start of a whole new chapter for your organization.

This is part 10 of a blog conversation on Innovation with Gene Hughson, read part 9 with links to all the previous parts.


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