I met DK a couple of years ago at a conference we were both speaking at. Since then, we’ve kept in touch, and recently he asked me to do a podcast with him for his new series on Defining Innovation.
Here is one of my favourite bits from the podcast (although I clearly say “so” way too much):
DK: But what’s the cultural shift that organizations have to do then to get their heads on the conditional side of innovation?
Tim: Yeah so that’s a great question and I think there’s a couple of key issues there. One is that if we’re talking about organizational habits or routines or the processes that we try to put in place, I think for me the most critical one is building up a skill for experimenting.
DK: A skill for experimenting.
Tim: Yeah or a habit, right but basically having that system in place where basically somebody says, “Hey I’ve got this great idea,” and then the response is, “That’s pretty cool. Let’s see if it works.” And the whole point, there’s a few I think critical points with that.
One is that when you’re seeing if it works, if it’s an experiment, we’re just testing. And so we’re not trying to prove that it works. We’re not assuming all the way through oh yeah that’s the right idea. We actually have to figure out well how would we test it? So is there a way that we can build a prototype? Is there a way that we can scale it down to a really small level to see if it’s going to work to gather some data and then to see if that’s something that’s worth building more?
The other thing with experimenting is that with an experiment you don’t fail. The whole thing with an experiment is we try it, and then the thing that we expected to happen either happens or it doesn’t and in both cases, then we have data. So either we’ve learned hey we have this idea and in this particular setting and under these circumstances it doesn’t work, so either we need to try different circumstances or a different way to approach it or do it with a different set of people or maybe it’s not right for us right now. But it’s not a failure.
But then if it does work then we can say okay we learned something and let’s do more of that. But I think that habit of experimenting gets around a lot of problems that we run into with innovation including just getting hung up on the idea because if you’re experimenting we have to actually execute to figure out if the idea’s any good.
The second thing that it does is it gets around this issue of well what happens if we try an idea and it doesn’t work as we’re going out to learn?
And I think the third thing that experimenting does is it just gets you into that habit of action. So if you talk about what’s the core skill of innovating, for me that’s it. And a lot of everything else that’s really important for innovation builds on that.
So we have that habit of experimenting and that culture of experimenting and learning in place, then you can build a lot on top of that. And so if we’re saying well how can we be more innovative, a lot of people say well let’s go get an idea management tool. Or let’s get an innovation (inaudible) or all this other stuff. And for me all that stuff can be fine and it has it’s place but all the other stuff doesn’t really help you that much. So for me that whole thing is to experiment because that where an innovation culture then comes from.
He made this clip to illustrate the next part:
You can listen to the whole podcast here, or read the transcript, or both.
DK is doing really good work on innovation – his previous podcast with Mike Arauz from UnderCurrent is outstanding.
He is thinking hard about how to ask better questions – this is a core skill for innovation. You should follow him on twitter and check out his blog.