Answer Four Questions to Improve Innovation

There are obstacle to innovation everywhere. Risk aversion, lack of resources, lack of enthusiasm, not enough time, not enough ideas, too many ideas – the list is potentially endless.

You can help your organisation be more innovative right now (today!) by answering these four questions:

  1. What is one idea that I can execute right now to make things work better? We often mistake generating ideas for innovating. But to innovate, you have to execute new ideas that create value. One way to create value is to improve your processes. I’ll be you have plenty of ideas about how you could make things work better. So execute one of them right now.

    Then do the same thing tomorrow.

    By getting into the habit of executing ideas you can get over one of the biggest innovation obstacles. Not all of them work, but the net value of a great idea is zero. It’s only be testing them out that you find the value in your ideas.

  2. What would I do differently if everyone reporting to me was a volunteer? When you answer this question, you start identifying obstacles for your team. And you shift from a directive approach to a supporting one. This usually leads to better innovation.

    Identifying these obstacles might give you some really good ideas for your answer to question number 1 too.

  3. If we were starting our business right now, would we do it this way? If you were starting a brand-new newspaper right now, would you invest millions of dollars into an editorial system that prevents you from easily sharing stories between print and digital outlets?

    Probably not.

    And yet, most big newspapers have systems that do exactly that.

    The problem is, their new competitors don’t have these. The new news organisations and those of the future won’t have to deal with this obstacle.

    Answering this question will help you identify the structural and processual obstacles that your firm faces. And it will give you some ideas about potential business model innovations.

  4. Who can I connect with to generate some interesting new ideas? Most great ideas come from the intersection between two different bodies of knowledge. You may know your field extremely well. So who can you connect with that has a completely different body of knowledge?

    Think of someone, and connect up. Send them an email, or a tweet. Invite them for a coffee.

    One way or another, make a new connection.

Innovation requires the execution of ideas. By answering these questions, you generate new ideas. By acting on these new ideas, you can get into the habit of innovating.

It may be that none of these questions trigger huge game-changing innovations.

But then, you won’t know that until you test them out, will you?

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

2 thoughts on “Answer Four Questions to Improve Innovation

  1. I find number 2 an intriguing question. Recently, I’ve started to consider everyone who works in an organization in exchange for a salary a volunteer. In an “at will” employment world, everyone can leave whenever they want.

    Perhaps the only people who don’t work as volunteers are those who’ve joined the military.

  2. With a few exceptions (like the military), I think you’re right David. Everyone can leave. But also, it’s just more humane and satisfying to treat people like real people that you care about, I think.

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