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5 Signs that you might be faking innovation.

A couple of weeks ago I came across a very insightful article by Carrie Nauyalis on how organisations are doing a lot of things that might look like innovation, but they are actually faking it.  I have seen many examples where the innovation “talk” is plenty, but the “walk” is lacking.  It was quite an extensive article, so I will only summarize they key findings here and add some of my own comments as well.
Faking Innovation
The article challenges organisations to take an honest look in the innovation mirror to determine whether they’re truly making it or perhaps faking it when it comes to bringing innovative products and services to market. So, please consider these pointers as a simple litmus test to self -diagnose.
So, with the permission from Carrie, here are the five signs indicating that you might be faking it.
1. Your product pipeline is filled to the brim with . . . safe bets.  I always refer to this as creating “me too” products.  Companies saying yes to innovation are willing to take calculated risks, fail fast, celebrate those failures, and deliver a well-balanced portfolio with a healthy chunk of innovation.
2. Your company says, “Innovation is everyone’s job”. If this phrase is articulated by mid-level and executive management, it is actually conveying the message that: innovation is no-one’s job.  When you’re truly innovative, someone is in charge of it. It is somebody’s job. Companies focused on being innovative designate a person with a title, a role, and corresponding objectives that are focused on innovation and they are measured against it.  This person is usually high in the organisation and has a staff of people whose sole mission it is to generate, incubate, and manage fresh ideas.
3. Your company believes innovation is free. Similar to the previous myth, you’re fooling yourself if you think innovation is free and just going to happen naturally in your organisation. Innovation requires people, processes, technology, a budget, and a plan. It requires investment with real money. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but it’s a far cry from free.
4. Your company is more “big hat, no cattle”. This is my favourite observation in the article.  The author lives in Texas and they have a lot of cattle ranches there.  She notes that there are some cowboys who wear a big hat, talking with the voice of experience and authority but the truth is that they only have a couple of cows. You may have someone in charge of innovation and working with a respectable innovation budget, but there are no real metrics used to measure innovation. Are metrics based on the number of new innovations that make it to market? Is it a percentage of revenue driven from innovation? How are you doing against those metrics? Are you even measuring? Is innovation part of your stated corporate strategy, as in, “We are going to increase revenue by 10 per cent with net-new products to existing markets?” For something to be measurable, you have to have metrics in place and then use. The proof on whether or not you’re faking it will be in the numbers (of cows).
5. Your organisation submits ideas via the employee suggestion box in the lobby. This means ideas are destined for a spread sheet stored on someone’s desktop, without any access to life-giving collaboration. An organization that is doing well with innovation has a complete, well-communicated program to capture both the internal and external voice of the customer. Those ideas are living and breathing, but most importantly they are implemented! The people inside your company deal with your product every day and are often the best source of ideas. They know the competition, the market, and the industry. They hear customer feedback. Is your innovation team listening? Do those ideas ever see the light of day? What’s the process to get ideas to the right people? Innovation needs a process and a home.

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