Being Innovative

Innovative, Innovation, Innovating, we hear a lot about the concept of “being innovative”. We are deluged by movies, articles, biographies, marketing campaigns, a whole world of media, centered around who or what is or isn’t “innovate. The one thing I have found about being innovative is that so many people seem to be under the impression that it’s this immense undertaking. That innovation can only be accomplished through a massive investment of time and resources. This is especially true in large organizations where the bureaucracy can stifle even the most well thought out initiative. The truth is that innovative solutions are all around us, at every moment there is an opportunity for businesses to make those crucial incremental changes in how they do things or start new ventures.

The other morning I came across some slides from a Forrester Research presentation on Digital Disruption and one phrase in particular jumped out at me: Innovate The Adjacent Possible. I like this phrase because it cuts to the heart of how innovation has to work in large organizations: incrementally. Businesses, especially large ones, need to examine what new ideas they can get off the ground and what improvements they can make to existing products with a reasonable commitment of resources. This might mean going outside of your org chart, it might mean stepping outside of your comfort zone but ultimately your long term success depends on it.

Don’t expect what you come up with to be perfect, plan on incremental improvements. People are often opposed to improving incrementally. We see this a lot when we help clients with designing a new site or implementing a new CMS: they want the one system that they will use forever and for it to be perfect in every way from day one. Very few products or ideas get done this way, you know why Facebook comes out with a new version every couple months: because they find small ways to be innovative. They examine what they can reasonably improve around them, they examine the “adjacent possible” and then innovate the hell out of it.

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