Six Tips To Innovate [Yes! And Blog 160]

“As innovation becomes a management discipline, there is a risk that it is seen as the end rather than the means.”

John Brooker 

6 Tips for Innovating

I Get a Kick Out of You

How can you start to innovate?

A while ago I was travelling quite a lot, delivering training courses for a client in Asia. One Saturday, I arrived at Beijing airport and went to the ATM to withdraw cash on my UK debit card. I entered the PIN, a few seconds later the cash appeared and I got a little kick of satisfaction.

Every time I use a cash dispenser abroad I get the same kick because I led the original team that made it possible for people to get cash from machines throughout Europe, Middle East and Africa using a Visa Card. No matter that it was almost thirty years ago when we started, that feeling returns.

It is this feeling that I want to pass on to others when I facilitate workshops; to get that great kick when something you have put a lot of creativity and effort in to achieves successful fruition. So here are six tips to help you innovate:

  1. Don’t talk about innovation. Innovate!
  2. Don’t learn to innovate. Innovate to learn.
  3. Don’t leave it up to a few. Have everyone innovate.
  4. If THEY won’t innovate, innovate yourself.
  5. Don’t boil the ocean. Start small and scale up.
  6.  Commit to move the proposition forward.

Tip 1 – Don’t Talk About Innovation. Innovate!

As innovation becomes a management discipline, there is a risk that it is seen as the end rather than the means. Many organisations talk too much about innovation but don’t innovate. In endless meetings people discuss the best process for innovation, how to measure innovation, how to make people innovative. Don’t talk! Do. In three to four workshop days you could find an opportunity, design a proposition and shape a strategy to implement it. This month. If three days is too much, see Yes! And Blog 86 here.

Tip 2 – Don’t Learn to Innovate. Innovate to Learn.

I believe organisations spend a great deal of money training people to be creative and how to innovate and achieve little result. Instead, form a team, run a workshop with a trained facilitator, use a structured approach to innovate and they will deliver you a tangible proposition that will repay the cost of the workshop many times over. At the same time they will learn what it takes to innovate and be enthused by delivering a result.

Tip 3 – Don’t Leave It To a Few. Have Everyone Innovate.

“It was a relief to have other people coming up with ideas and not just my team.” That’s roughly what the Head of R & D said to me after one workshop. The more people you involve the more likely you are to achieve better innovation. Involve people in the team from many functions and from different levels, client facing and back room people, head office and line people. It creates new networks and promotes collaboration.

Tip 4 – If THEY Won’t Innovate, Innovate Yourself.

It’s too easy to say, “This organisation is not innovative.” So does that mean YOU can’t innovate? Start innovating yourself and with your team and be role models. True, your innovations may not be huge at first, but over time you will build up a track record of innovation and other people will start to notice. You might infect them with your enthusiasm and they might support your efforts. With luck, you might ignite the innovation spark in your organisation. Lucky people are prepared people. Start to innovate, now.

Tip 5 – Don’t boil the ocean. Start small and scale up.

“Boil the ocean” is a metaphor for doing too much all at once. Too often people run organisation wide initiatives that take too long and have too much risk. Many such initiatives fail. The planning is endless and resistance is met as other people fight you for the resources and time. You have no tangible evidence your initiative will work so it is difficult to argue your case. By contrast, if you start with a small team of volunteers and a single workshop, you limit your risk, prove the approach works and deliver a business result for relatively little cost in terms of time and money. Next, you invite other people, run another workshop, deliver a result and step-by-step, scale up to higher risk initiatives in terms of resource.

Tip 6 – Commit To Move the Proposition Forward.

Don’t run a workshop unless you are committed to moving the created proposition forward. Take this scenario: your team spends three to four days creating their brilliant proposition, they bring it to the leadership team who says, “Great idea but we’ll have to leave it until next budget year.’ See how fast the enthusiasm scale drops and the cynicism scale rises. Are you serious about innovating or is this just a different way to talk about innovation (recall Tip 1)? The role of the leadership team is to move this idea forward now, find the money and inspire people.

Bonus Tip 7 – You only get the feeling if you follow the tips!

A self-evident tip!


Consider the tips. What might you do in your organisation? If you would like to know how to run a workshop to innovate, click on the link in the signature panel below. You can also find some outline ideas on my website here.

To Close

I was one of the organising team members for SOL World 2013 in Germany, a business event for Solutions Focus practitioners. Our international team of five core organisers got on really well and it was such a great feeling to bounce ideas around, have them accepted and built upon, rework, improvise and put them in to action, sometimes just minutes after we had thought of them. Not all of them worked brilliantly but enough did to get that great “kick” again at the end of a job well done.

What might you get involved in that could help you innovate regularly?

Wishing you an innovative week.

John Brooker I Yes! And. Think Innovatively.

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