Innovation is Like Teenage Sex

Innovation and sex, a quirky little statement which I saw good friend and global innovator, Steve Monaghan quote on stage, and of course I tweeted it. the original quote came from Dan Ariely who originally spoke about big data and I'll give you the innovation version of it.

Innovation is like teenage sex;

Everybody talks about it,

Nobody knows how to do it,

Everyone thinks everybody else is doing it, guess what? Everybody else says they're doing it.

It's a vicious cycle for a lot of organizations around the world right now, where they believe they need to be innovating yet don't really understand the essence of what innovation is. Many look at sexy labs, working with start-ups, maybe even a corporate venture capital fund. But the challenge really is here is it's not so much about the output. The challenge is more chronic than that. It comes back to two parts of the organization which will actually make or break most organizations through the digital transformation, and that is capability and culture.

Both of these things don't come in a weekend hack-a-thon. They won't come in doing one-off workshops or spending time with a bunch of start-ups. These are a long progressive journey of capability-building organically in the organization starting with those people who self-selectingly want to innovate, that are attracted to the idea of change. How do you find them?

Speak to the people in your front lines today. Ask them, “What customer problem would they solve today if they had all the results in the world you need?” Surprisingly most corporates have an abundant amount of people working in the customer service centres who put their hands up and saying, "We want to fix this stupid fax update form.” Or, “We want to fix this customer on-boarding process because we believe these few tweaks will make it look better." These insights will actually help, not only open the ideas in the creativity of your teams, but also start building organically the culture within your organization which is key to the next part of our own capabilities.

Once they have the desire, the culture to innovate, how do you work with the organization? Well, like myself and my team, to actually work on the ways to build this capability and not with a head of innovation or a head of technology. This is a learning and development focus and you're best ally here is your Head of HR or your Head of Learning & Development.

Now, I've worked with some amazing heads of learning and development in the past couple of months and encourage you all to make huge alliances with these people. So here it is. Innovation is about capability and culture. Stop talking about innovation, and start getting your hands dirty.

What are your thoughts on innovation?