When I used to live in Sydney, I had a neighbour who was a big wig in the local orchid society – he was also a great bloke.
He had his back yard almost completely set up as a greenhouse (leaving enough room for a clothesline and a postage stamp of grass). He was always out there, trying to get some of his special orchids to flower so he could win the society prize.
His approach to gardening was different to mine – he was always tinkering, adjusting, moving, putting in effort. My backyard was simply Darwinian – only the strongest plants survived!
When I would chat to him over the fence, he regaled me with his efforts and was proud of his results. When I asked him about how much time he spent out there, he shared with me a story that growing special orchids was like walking a tightrope. Everything had to be perfect, and one mis-step leads to a disaster in the end result.
In a way, growing orchids is like generating valuable innovation – everything has to be right to get the result, and the smallest thing wrong will stop it in its tracks.
Many efforts and first buds of innovation in so many organisations are stopped by the smallest things. Like the orchids, the conditions and nurturing need to be perfect for the show-winning result. Your greenhouse needs to be perfect to allow them to flourish.
Are you building an innovation greenhouse or innovation compost heap in your business?
Building the innovation greenhouse:
To grow the perfect orchid, you need have the right conditions – in a perfect greenhouse. What would an ‘innovation greenhouse’ look like in your organisation?
It would need the right conditions to allow innovation to blossom, and o provide all the key ingredients to make sure those blooms make it to the show.
Here are the things that matter in your greenhouse:
Leadership is the foundation of the greenhouse of innovation. It is not just enough to be a leader that says that they want innovation, you have to consistently seek it out, encourage it, foster it and reward it. The leader is the most visible and salient person whom everyone unconsciously looks to and models, so if the leader is not walking the talk on innovation, then it will never blossom. Leaders set and steer the culture, which is many organisations often is pro-‘busy’ and truly anti-innovation. True leadership and culture setting are a minimum requirement for innovation to flourish.
Purpose creates the scaffolding and the direction for innovation to grow upon. Unless your staff know deeply what you are trying to achieve, they cannot conceptualise, invest, experiment or commit to the innovations that will help the organisation. The purpose must be fixed around the customer and what they experience. The purpose must be shared, communicated and lived in the business consistently. Without purpose, ideas emerge like weeds that don’t help with the final outcome, sap resources and undermine focus.
Space for collaboration is critical – people who discover innovation needs often cannot create the ‘solution concept’ by themselves, However, by collaborating informally and formally across the business in trusted ways, associative learning often occurs – creating solution possibilities that otherwise might not be found. These trusting networks also serve to provide early feedback and low risk testing of ideas before individuals commit to escalating an idea into a potential solution. Without the space to collaborate, the innovations often remain pot-bound and fail to progress to meaningful solution ideas.
Space for experimentation is the soil and fertiliser that allows the idea to grow. Too often, there is no resource, time or money available for innovation trials. Innovation is messy, and often can require many experiments and even failures before a workable solution is found. Too often businesses are running ‘LEAN’ where the focus is on resource efficiency rather than the redundancy required to allow messy innovation to occur. Further, when people are stretched they do all they can to keep up, leaving no time or mental bandwidth to explore new ideas. Too often people are simply running in the ‘hamster wheel’ with no ability to even consider doing anything different or differently. Without the nourishment and fuel for growth, nothing will bloom in the innovation greenhouse.
Implementation support is the water that helps the flower grow. This means that when a practical innovation emerges from experimentation, there needs to be adequate support, resources and focus to drive the change required to make the new innovation the new ‘status quo’. Too many businesses have pressing needs, develop great solutions – only to see them wither and die without any support to help them go from first bud to full bloom.
What is your innovation greenhouse like?
What are you missing to allow innovation to really blossom in your firm?
If you want to explore your own situation and what may be possible, then get in touch with me now. We can review your current innovation capability and put in place practical, valuable steps to ensure you avoid the mis-steps that will kill off innovation. You can instead create a hot-house of innovation where great new ideas can bloom and become your next reality.