Is innovation the key to prosperity? 3 steps to making innovation the norm

A recent survey of UK local government workers saw a huge third of councils think they can make 50% or more of their cost savings through redesigning the way they deliver services. But, most believe they lack the time and skills to create the sort of innovative action required to make changes.

Troubling. According to the Australia Government resources www.business.gov.au, innovation drives the productivity and performance of business, and can help you grow and improve your business.

Businesses that innovate have better productivity performance, grow fast and generate higher quality, higher paying jobs.

Innovation can benefit all aspects of business including sales and marketing, finance, human resources, and information technology.

As business innovator Tim Pethick tells Smart Company:

Effective innovation comes with customer insight. You might have a great idea but is it anchored or grounded? Many people pursue an idea without thinking about whether there is a customer need, and does the business model make sense.

You can have the best innovation at the front end, but if it is not supported at the back end that delivers to customers forget it.

So while there’s lots of information around about innovating in small or large businesses (like this one from Forbes), how can places, the local councils and committees that support, innovate?

1. Have a flexible and fast decision making process. Yes, everyone needs a say. Taking 6 months to consult with everyone on a project does not allow for an innovative and flexible approach. Debating the same issues over and over gets us nowhere. Decisions need to be made.

Suggestion: Ensure your meetings are structured so that debate happens, but a result follows. There’s a technique called idea writing that allows participants to make notes on proposals and pass those notes to others, who also make notes. The idea is that once it has been around to everyone, the issues raised are addressed and a consensus is reached. There’s also the De Bonos 6 hats approach to decision making. Pick a few techniques that will work for your group.

2. Passion is a prequisite. Is everyone in your meetings a) supposed to be there, b) excited about making positive steps forward. If not, can you screen future committee members, or have smaller meetings? While a desenting voice can be necessary for innovation, constant naysaying gets us nowhere.

Suggestion: Have a  vision setting exercise for the committee. This helps clarify what we are all here for and working towards. Set ground rules for discussion and stick to them!

3.  Have dedicated thinking or creative time. Sound like a luxury? It is necessary to be in the correct head space to think in new and creative ways and see problems from a different perspective. Research shows that we need to be in a high energy, positive mood to think of creative ideas. It is physically impossible to generate good ideas in a negative mood (but it is a perfect mood for finding faults which can also be invaluable!). It’s difficult to be in the best mindset when you are rushing around, stressed by competing demands and multitasking on every priority.

In my experience, the best results can be achieved with workshops that provide some prethinking eg provide participants with notes a week or so before the meeting. It’s also important to set the mood at the beginning of the meeting, think about music to create the vibe, have food and drink available, allow for some socialising. Remember some people are most creative when sparring off other people’s ideas, while others need to process information alone to come up with their best solutions. Allow time for all approaches for best results.

Taking innovation seriously and allowing time to actually let it happen is so critical, and will pay dividends.

As always, if you need to chat about your options, feel free to get in touch, or give Roberta a call on 0413 420 282.

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