1. The government could play a major role in making innovation a key factor in economic leadership. There should be a Department of Innovation in the Central government with units in all State governments.
2. Industry bodies like CII should set up innovation centers.
3. IIM Ahmedabad has a center for Innovation, Incubation and Environment.
4. Anna University in Chennai has an Innovation Centre. There is space and a need for hundreds of such centers, especially in academic institutions.
5. As an aid to formulating the research design for this study, the researcher visited the Society for Innovation and Development (SID) at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore for interaction with commerce and industry. This organization helps companies by providing them with incubators for new ideas. However much more needs to be done.
6. Innovators should be honored with national awards. Indian companies should have better facilities for filing patents for innovations and inventions. Many young inventors fall by the wayside because the procedure is so expensive, time consuming and complicated. Government should have a more enabling attitude to protect the nation’s wealth of ideas.
7. The educational system should be based on developing creative and innovative thinking. Thinking tools and methodologies should be part of the syllabus.
8. All technical institutions should have innovation and creativity taught as a subject. Companies should recruit innovative people and support them through the process of development. Textbooks on innovation and creativity should be written.
9. All induction programs in organizations should include creativity and innovation.
10. The new trend in business is that people do not stay in jobs over a lifetime. Most respondents in the survey had been in their jobs only for five years. An intensive program to awaken organizational innovativeness and the possibility of enrolling new employees as organizational change agents should be presented early in the process.
Customers need to be engaged and involved in the process of constant innovation. Market research alone cannot do it.
Here are a few suggestions:
• Involve everyone in the quest for ideas
• Involve customers in your process of generating ideas
• Involve customers in new ways.
• Focus on needs that customers don’t express
• Focus groups provide feedback only on existing ideas.
• Seek ideas from new customer groups
Harvesting ideas is good. But using them is critical. Tapping customer innovation is a process that can help customers give creative ideas.
The word ‘spiral’ grew out of the MindsPower belief that an idea is like a stone thrown into the still surface of the lake. The ripples spread across the lake. Just as the flutter of a butterfly wing in the rain forests in Brazil can cause an earthquake in Indonesia, or when New York Stock Exchange sneezes, the Asian economies catch pneumonia, every new idea changes the company. Innovation spirals are cross-functional teams, created to design and implement corporate strategies. Kanter writes of factors that inhibit the culture of innovation.
• Dominance of restrictive vertical relationships
• Poor lateral communications
• Limited tools and resources
• Top-down dictates
• Formal, restricted vehicles for change
• Reinforcing a culture of inferiority
• Unfocused innovative activity
Building an organizational culture supportive of creativity is not something which can be done in a hurry. It takes time to build trust between individuals and to reinforce the beliefs and norms we wish to encourage. Despite the obstacles, continuous efforts must be undertaken to ensure the development and maintenance of a creative culture in order to ensure systematic innovation.
These teams help break down turf protection. However, they need to be carefully managed. Just including people from many departments does not automatically make a CFT more effective. Too much information can just confuse everybody. Clarity of goals and top management support as well as recognition and rewards are critical to the process.
Managing cross-functional teams is one of the challenges of new product development. Yet, how members from different functional areas come together, interact, and arrive at consensus, is a poorly understood process.
Adapting to change and proactively responding to opportunities are daunting tasks. Top management needs to handhold teams through these risky processes. Failures need to be dealt with in a way that protects and encourages risk taking. Only CEOs can provide the time and resources required for companies to be outwardly focused, scanning the environment of competitors, customers, academicians, suppliers and even different industries. Such companies have a better chance of becoming innovation stars. CEOs can provide courage, zest, enthusiasm and speed to the whole organization. It is this energy that will drive an Innovation Initiative.
Large, traditional companies have a tendency to become more bureaucratic. Bureaucracy produces politics, red tape and power struggles. People find a hundred rules to protect themselves from acting. This can repress the natural energy and enthusiasm of the organization. CEOs can prevent this deadening disease.
CEOs can ensure a culture of innovation that highlights the importance of harnessing the talent of the entire organization. Only CEOs can lead such quantum shifts in strategy. They alone can create an organizational climate, where fundamental assumptions are open to question. A real gap in Indian companies seems to be CEOs who nurture companywide innovation.
While many CEOs are ‘visionary leaders,’ most are not enthusiastic champions of company-wide innovation. Both financial and psychological support from top management is critical for the culture of innovation. One of the main inhibitors of innovation is the attitude of the ‘Do it my way.’ Leaders need an effective communication system to share their business vision with the grassroots. This helps to empower all levels of the organization.
Once the returns from an innovation start to pour in, the organization may begin to focus on maximizing the returns through routine implementation. Harvesting is a mechanical and essential process. Perhaps every organization requires a section of its people to focus on creativity and innovation. An Innovation Center could provide the foundation for a long-term initiative. Large, tradition bound, successful organizations, tend to prefer the stability that formalized procedures provide. Older organizations tend to become more bureaucratic. Large companies may have more resources, while smaller companies may find it easier to change course. Even though most companies accept the idea of innovation being important for success, most are not committed enough to practice it on a long-term basis. Most are not aware of the underlying process required to make it work on a consistent basis. In the Innovation Movement itself, there are not enough clearly defined structures and processes that a company could follow.
There are few consultant organizations, which can handhold and support long-term innovation initiatives. There is a feeling that innovation and creativity is for intellectuals or geniuses. Innovation as a concept needs to be demystified for use across the organization. Management is bottom-line driven. They are extremely result oriented in the short term and lose faith in concepts very fast. Innovation is a concept that requires a long-term buy-in and takes time to be fully ingrained in the organizational culture.
The metamorphosis model of organizational development, passing through the cycles of growth and decline, describes the organizational life cycle of companies:
Focus on innovation, may rescue an organization in the declining phase of the organizational life cycle. Re-innovation or renovation becomes important when an old, traditional company goes into decline.
The first phase is often entrepreneurial and innovative with a sudden burst of energy capturing a new space in the market. This creative phase is terminated in a leadership crisis. It was Schumpeter who said, “It is rare for anyone always to remain an entrepreneur throughout the decades of his active life.” This cycle progresses from entrepreneurship to an organization that becomes slow and complacent.
Identifying people to be included in innovation initiative
Help in selecting projects for creative problem solving
Making available teams to work on projects
Officially recognize the teams and scope of activity. Schedule presentation to top management
Provide a budget, Organize Innovation symposiums.
Provide space and time for innovation spirals to meet
Start a MINDSPOWER club to meet once a month. Give innovation awards
Celebrate good ideas. Prepare reports and publish success stories
Use the innovation club for self development
Communicate results of Innovation Initiative
Have annual awards for Best Teams
Innovation turns problems and inconveniences into profitable elements of a business. The mightiest of modern organizations has been built in a few short years through the power of information and the human mind. Helping to manage human imagination to develop creative solutions will be the secret of winners in the future. Innovation can be seen in every field and every sector. When the first pre-paid telephone cards were released in Japan, it was heralded as the best innovation of the year. It was an example of a simple innovation offering tremendous benefits, both to the consumer and the telephone companies. There are no limitations to the possibilities of the human mind. “Microsoft’s only factory asset is the human imagination,” wrote Frank Moody. Corporations that adopt innovation as a way of life never need to compete. Theirs is the path where no one has gone before; the path which leads to untold success.
Consistent innovation leading to profitability is what corporate India needs. This will not happen through mere rhetoric. An Innovation Initiative, which embraces everyone from the doorman to chairman, will create a culture of Innovation. This initiative is for those who are willing to dive in and stay the course of a long-term organizational development intervention. The gaps in achieving this goal for Indian companies are clear. There is a lack of interest in investing resources to build a culture of innovation, a certain reluctance to install the innovation thinking tools.
Without the oxygen of support and applause, ideas often die in infancy. The creativity improvement program can be the foundation that enables all other company programs to be effective. There are a number of steps to ensure that the program encourages innovation.
IBM whose motto is ‘Think,’ believes in ‘More intellect, less materials.’
A small bank, which did not have the funds to pay for expensive real estate, came up with the idea of using other people’s premises: schools, petrol pumps and super-markets. Then they moved seamlessly into a growth path, starting thousands of ATMs and mobile banks. Today, they are one of the largest banks in India.
More recently, many banks have introduced the concept of 24-hour direct banking with business being carried out by anonymous people at the end of a telephone. This is neutralizing the competitive advantage, which established banks enjoyed by virtue of functioning from prime sites in Mumbai.
Dr. Rekha Shetty is Managing Director of Farstar Distribution Network, a unique consultancy company devoted exclusively to innovation and creativity under the brand name Mindspower.She is an author, an entrepreneur and an original thinker. Her long term Innovation Initiative, using 47 thinking tools helps in a steep increase in profits, reduction in costs, while improving customer satisfaction levels and employee participation levels. She is a consultant to ICICI Bank, Ashok Leyland Ltd., Hyundai Motors Ltd., TVS Group, TI Group, Durgapur Steel Plant, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. and other blue chip companies.
In her very first assignment in United India Insurance, she developed a nationally acclaimed advertising campaign. During the last seventeen years, she has specialized in the field of Creativity in Management and developed her own management brand, Mindspower. She was one of Asia’s first women District Governors for Rotary International and was awarded Rotary’s highest Award – Service above Self.
Her fourth book “Innovate! 90 Days to Transform your Business” is under print and will be released by Penguin during May 2010.