Innovative initiatives: how do you realize them?

In our last blogs about innovation, we discussed the importance of embracing innovation and explained how to recognize and eliminate innovation killers. Now, it is time to look at the requirements for innovative ideas and the way you can realize them.

Every process of innovation follows a pattern of trying, failing, learning and trying again. So before you can innovate, you actually have to realize the ideas you have been thinking about for awhile. What does it take to get a good initiative out of one’s head and into reality?

 1. The speed of trust

Innovation is about letting go of the obsolete – and, therefore, about loosening control. It is about trying out new things, that can lift up and boost your organization – or make everything a little less great. You never know what’s going to happen.

Many organizations struggle to make those courageous decisions, as this increases the risk that things could go wrong. It is, however, important to trust your experts if you want to get something innovative off the ground.

For example, before the 2007 launch of the very first iPhone, Apple employees were granted trust and a certain amount of freedom to develop a device that was completely different from any cell phone ever released.

No one knew what was going to happen, but they went for it anyway and it turned out really well for the company. Your innovation process asks for the same courage – and trust.

2. Failed attempts? No problem!

Innovation comes from the Latin word ‘innovationem’. Until the 16th century, being a ‘novator’ wasn’t a good thing. They were treated very carefully and were not to be trusted, as a ‘novator’ was a heretic or a disbeliever.

That’s right, innovation comes from people who didn’t feel comfortable with the established religion and came up with their own ideas. If you want to be innovative, come up with your own ideas, even if not everyone’s immediately on board. Because although it turned out well for Apple, sometimes it takes a long time before innovative processes bring any benefit to your organization.

It is crucial to realize from the beginning, that innovation processes hardly ever go right the first time. While trying out new things, you discover what works and what doesn’t and this way you learn by trial and error. Apple did, Triggre did, and so will every other organization.

At the same time, it is important to take damage control into account so you (and your employees) are well prepared. For example, explain to your test group what you are trying to accomplish and have them sign a document stating that you are at an experimental stage. Also, pick the right process to experiment with – not all processes are suitable!

3. Leading with a compass (not with a clock)

When you are planning an innovative move, it all starts with the ‘why’. Ask yourself why your organization is making changes and create a goal before you start. After awhile, you can check the progress your organization has made, by asking if you are getting closer to the ‘why’.

‘Are we heading into the right direction?’ is the key question in innovation processes, and it should be one of the few you are (re)answering along the way. If the progress gets you closer to fixing the reason why you are innovating, your organization is on the right track.

When implementing innovative initiatives, it is essential to lead with a compass, rather than a clock. After all, you don’t know how long a process will take. You take steps forward and you take steps back, and the project plan will most likely never be on schedule.

Still, every move will get you closer to innovating and being better than before. You can only determine at regular intervals whether you are still on track towards your final goal: innovation!

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