The Innovation Contradiction

The role of innovation in business is much talked about but little understood, as creativity and discipline are needed in equal measure to guarantee success. And getting the mix right is essential.

Learning from failure

Everyone in the world of business management is in favour of innovation and supports the need for organisations to develop open and positive cultures. True innovation needs able and focussed people supported by leaders willing to take brave and measured risks. Innovation stems from a strong blend of concentration and communication amongst those involved and demands an ability to learn from failure, as trying and failing is a normal part of the process. When companies develop new products or new markets they enter unfamiliar territory with no surety of success. And when failure happens the ability to learn quickly is vital, so leaders are better prepared to try again and win.

Discipline is vital

The need for discipline isn’t always recognised as an essential ingredient in the development of an innovative culture but without a strong sense of discipline efforts are often misguided and ineffective. The rigour needed to find a new idea and test whether or not it will work in the market is essential to any innovative organisation. Experiments too are an important way to trial ideas, understand what works, how long it will take to work, and how much investment is necessary. This approach allows ideas to be tested properly and for decisions to be made without prolonged or overly expensive trials. In this scenario, all feedback – good and bad – is welcome, as it informs decisions about whether or not to continue to the next stage.

Building trust

Innovation equally thrives in an environment where people feel safe, trust each other, and openly share opinions regardless of their position or authority within the group. Providing honest feedback is vital when developing new models of business, as progress is more likely when people work in secure surroundings. But in such situations people must actively listen to, and learn from, each other, which at times is difficult. Constructive challenge even in a supportive environment can be disruptive. But for the people who can excel in such climates there are significant rewards. Setting clear and shared goals is one way to encourage people to voice their views, as they are more inclined to share any doubts rather than simply stay silent.

Building a culture of innovation is challenging and difficult in any organisation, as it means changing the rules and disrupting normal patterns of behaviour and reporting structures. Such shifts often make people uncomfortable but getting comfortably uncomfortable is the ideal innovative state.

So, developing an innovative culture is an essential requirement for every organisation as creativity and discipline are harnessed to achieve success.