Take Amazon Prime, the whole concept for this subscription service came from an idea for free shipping put into their virtual idea box by one of the software engineers. Since then, Prime has generated billions of additional revenue for the company.
Another example is British Airways, where one employee suggested descaling toilet pipes to reduce the weight of the plane, in turn lowering emissions and fuel bills. That one idea alone saved the business over £700,000 per annum.
But while everyone has the ability to innovate, innovation doesn’t happen by accident. So how can you build your own capability and start viewing challenges and opportunities differently?
Be open to possibilities
One of the greatest dangers to innovation success is narrow-mindedness. We often hear stories of employees who offered up an idea only to be told “that won’t work.” And the more times your workforce hears this, the less they will try to innovate.
So switch your thinking – focus on the positives and view ideas as interesting suggestions which need to be explored and developed. Optimism over pessimism. Being open to the possibilities is a key behavior for innovators.
We love the tale of Alice in Wonderland. Partly because of the fantastical creatures she meets along the way, though fundamentally because it tells us a lot about curiosity. Our favourite quote is one where Alice is asking the Cheshire Cat for directions:
Alice: “Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?”
Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where.”
Cat: “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”
Alice “… So long as I get somewhere.”
Cat “Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”
Sometimes the greatest innovations come from the sheer pursuit of curiosity – not having an end destination, but the ability and desire to meander around a situation. The discovery of Penicillin, creation of velcros and the alchemy of Viagra were all as a result of inventors being curious about their world.
Make time for stimulus
Often we are so busy in the day-to-day of work that we fail to spend time exploring, reading and learning about new ideas and best practice. However, innovation can only happen at the intersection of ideas, so we need stimulus to help us think and see our business challenges differently.
Carve out a regular time slot where you invest in looking outside of your normal world and into what we call the “parallel universe” of a different sector or organisation. Learn about how they have approached similar challenges or opportunities and let those creative juices flow. Though stimulus isn’t about copying. It’s about getting to the heart of the example – what is the principle you can learn here; what was trying to be achieved. Great innovators then take that principle and view their own challenge through the same lens to create a solution which works for their culture and their business.
Would you like to boost innovation capability in your business? Give us a buzz to find out more.