Roland Harwood Co-Founder & Networks Partner, 100%Open Ltd
23rd Aug 2011
Innovation can be seen as exclusive or elite, but guest blogger Roland Harwood makes the case that innovation is for everybody and every day.
Everybody seems to want more innovation these days without necessarily being clear on what it is they really want. And innovation can sometimes be perceived as an exclusive, elite, and specialist activity. However the purpose of this post is to try to make the case that innovation is for everybody and every day.
So let's start with one definition for innovation that seems to work: "Innovation is the successful application of new ideas."
This sounds simple enough, but whilst finding or coming up with new ideas is a necessary part of innovation, creativity alone is not sufficient. Innovation involves taking new ideas, and working hard to turn them into a solution that can be implemented successfully to create new value. That requires a lot of effort and enthusiasm to create a plan, a team, a strategy, and many other things.
Whilst the original idea is clearly important, it is almost always overvalued in our experience and the effort in making it happen is usually massively undervalued.
We recently worked with various teams across Oxfam on innovation. We started by asking people to talk about their favourite innovation in history, encouraging people to think about all types of innovations from products and services institutions, legislation and beyond. Responses included the following:
A fantastically diverse list of big ticket innovations. But in reality, most innovations are small things that add up to make a big difference.
And regardless of how big your organisation, it is true that it is increasingly possible to borrow, adapt or implement the ideas of others via the web.
"99.99% of the smart people don't work for you." Neville Sonnenburg, Procter & Gamble
Companies like LEGO have unlocked masses of value through unleashing their customers' creativity with products such as Mindstorms, Architecture and Design By Me. Other companies, such as Procter and Gamble (P&G ), have systematised this more open approach to innovation by having a company-wide target for 50% of all new product and service ideas to come from outside of the company.
These open and collaborative strategies have enabled both LEGO and P&G to outperform their competitors by sourcing and implementing innovation through collaboration. Whilst this more open approach requires a profound shift in innovation process and policies (such as how to manage intellectual property and investment), it requires a much more profound shift in mindset, culture and skills.
Oxfam's work is about leveraging lasting change at scale through collaborating with others. However in order to do this it's important to be clear that innovation isn't just for the few, but for everybody. And some of the best ideas come from the most unexpected places and people - both inside and outside of the organisation.