Innovation is an increasingly important element in organizational survival, I’ll suggest. If we accept the increasing rate of change and growing speed of execution, innovation in products and services will be critical to maintain competitive advantage. Whether it’s completing in ‘red ocean’ markets, or exploring ‘blue ocean‘ opportunities, the ability to continually generate new ideas will be a necessary component of organizational strategy.
So, what do we know about innovation? Naturally, I’m curious (:).
First, Tony Karrer, blogging at ASTD’s ICE conference, cites Malcolm Gladwell outlining the principle (which I’d heard before, but can’t recall where) that there are two types of innovators: the one-shot wonder, and the steady innovator. The former has something big that they accomplish largely on their own (and tend to get known for), and then there’s the more common, less heralded steady innovator who works with teams to bring ideas to fruition (I’m immodestly hoping I’ve demonstrated the latter). Also, as Sawyer tells us (as I blogged before), innovation is not generally individual, but builds upon others. Certainly, it’s the way to bet. Now, how do we implement it?
Surowiecki’s Wisdom of the Crowds, Tapscott’s Wikinomics, and Libert & Spector’s We Are Smarter Than Me, are telling us to tap into the wisdom of crowds, and with lots of examples of how creating conversations with folks can spark new insights. The old saying is that the room’s smarter than the smartest person in the room, though with a caveat: if we manage the process right (e.g. it can’t be that the loudest person gets to win).
As a start, it’s time to get your own people working together in effective ways. You need to build eCommunity, getting your people talking to one another, helping one another, and making explicit what’s currently tacit. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. In talking with an organization that facilitated organizational innovation for others, most of their work was not teaching innovation per se, but making an innovation culture.
Starting internally is a first step, but also consider opening it up to customers, partners, and more.
The time to start experimenting is now. If your culture’s not supportive, start finding ways to shift. It’s only one component of an overall eLearning strategy, but one that may be the most important for the organization to get in place.