Today I paged through a book by Martin Gaedt, called “Rock your idea”. Despite the english title the book is written in German. One of the first and central ideas presented there was:
Innovation means to break the rules.
I’ve been scientific and innovation enabler for several projects and companies now and this is nearly all you need to know about injecting new ideas or technology into companies.
If you want to work out a totally different and optimal solution for a given problem or even want to create a new area of business, you have to break the rules.
- The rules defining what is possible. Maybe someone just invented the technology needed to build your idea. You might at the moment not know that.
- The rules what we think customers need or want. Ever heard that argument “None of our customers asked for that! Why should we build that?”?.
- The rules of the existing business. Ever heard that your idea doesn’t fit into the portfolio of the company? WHAT THE HECK? The portfolio is where the money is, for God’s sake!
- And sometimes even the rules of hierarchy. Having an innovator working ‘at a short leash’ often means preventing innovation. Sometimes managerial control is the worst you can do to harm your company.
So to reformulate the negative arguments to positive actionable items:
- When having a new idea, don’t instantly think about existing technology to build it. When you need it, there will be a solution. There always was one when I needed it. Finding technical solutions is the job of people like me.
- When you don’t know if a customers will buy into your idea, TALK TO THEM. Sometimes you will get a piloting customer aboard for an idea that is nothing more than that: an idea. Sometimes you will have to invest a small amount of money and time into a prototype or mockup to win a customers interest.
- If you only look for ideas fitting into an existing portfolio, I’m sorry to tell you, that your company will not have any chances to survive a future disruptive change in its very own field of business. There will be someone else having a similar idea and with no reluctance to realize it, portfolio or not.
- If you have people working for you on innovative ideas, trust them. At least a bit further than you feel comfortable with. Micromanaging people is a great way to let them look for another company that offers a broader field of work. If you expect your researchers to follow working instructions to the point you’re exactly missing the point.