A new business insight provided by Roger La Salle, innovation thought leader and pioneer of “Matrix Thinking”™

Why Innovate?
Research has shown that companies that fail to innovate fail to survive. It is essential that progressive companies embed innovation as a culture.

The 10% free time was a failure
Some years ago I was a Group Director of a very large company where we implemented 10% free time in an endeavour to achieve innovation outcomes. The idea was that people could put their feet up on the desk and do nothing more than think about innovation, for as much as 10% of their working week. Unsurprisingly, it was a complete failure.

Why? Because workers whose output was quantitatively measured just never had such freedom of time.

For more senior people whose metrics are more esoteric, the problem was that in these days of excessive time demands courtesy of e-mails and the like, most executives already work 60 or more hours per week just managing their jobs. Would you expect them to put their feet up on the desk to think innovatively for an extra 10% of their day, especially when innovation is not even a KPI? Of course not, this will never work.

Many ideas occur spontaneously – but don’t rely on serendipity
The real fact is that innovation and “opportunity capture” often occur at the most random of times whilst “on the job”. People just need to know what to look for and how to approach innovation with some simple opportunity capture tools and the mindset that nothing we do or sell today will be the same forever. There is always a better way. What is needed is a mechanism and tools to inspire people to be looking for better ways to open minds and most importantly to have a forum for expressing and developing ideas.

The methodology is simple and the outcomes assured as many that have implemented this approach can attest.

Embedding the Innovation Culture – Innovation needs to come from the top down – Management must be committed.

Emphasise the importance and use some simple examples such as:

  • KODAK – that was too slow in adapting to digital technology.
  • Swiss watches ignored the digital watch and allowed the Japanese to dominate.
  • MOTOROLA – were early cell phone providers but let Nokia, that was formerly in the timber industry, steal the market with their wonderful products.
  • Old fashioned air-blow hand dryers that were largely ineffective and were rendered obsolete overnight by Dyson.

Train your people

  • Train your people with the simple tools of innovation and opportunity capture.
  • Allow innovation time of perhaps 30 minutes per month for innovation circle meetings (if seen as appropriate, the 18 minute TED talk by Roger La Salle may assist staff. It can be found at:
  • Once trained, form Innovation Circles – typically two or three small teams.
  • Allow innovation time of perhaps 30 minutes per month for innovation circle meetings and mandate these meetings. These meetings can even be held at lunchtime with the boss providing the lunch.
  • Provide competition between circles.
  • Always evaluate and give feedback on ideas.
  • Reward and celebrate success, perhaps a night out for dinner or a weekend away with the winning team and their partners.

What’s the message?
“Innovate or Perish” and do so by engaging your people in formal innovation teams that are inspired to identify and develop new ideas. This is not rocket science; and it really does work.

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