Creativity has been the driving force in Les’ life and career. Having spent his formative 20’s in advertising and his 30’s as a brand architect, Fortune 500 organizations to local not-for-profits have benefited from his strategic thinking. Les has condensed the best processes, strategies and philosophies from the last 20 years and dedicated this next decade of his career to developing and implementing Innovation Strategies at CORE20 Strategic Advisory. With a core belief that the only roadblock to any challenge is a lack of imagination, Les brings a myriad of techniques, expertise, plus a whole lot of passion to developing new paths to revenue.
We are very grateful to have Les share his ideas around innovation and pushing beyond our comfort zones. We hope you all enjoy!
4 Uncomfortable Truths About Innovation
While innovation has been a business buzzword for three decades, it remains a strong meme today. I believe this is true for two reasons. The first is because innovation is what businesses do. Period. It’s the commerce equivalent to evolution in nature; if you don’t innovate, you disappear – businesses become “wasnesses”. The second reason we continue to see the ‘I word’ on the cover of thousands of new magazines, book titles and blog posts every year is because innovation is still a highly aspirational state for most businesses. Humans are creatures of habit; we enjoy mastery. It feels good to do what we’ve always done because we know how to do it. It’s comfortable.
Innovation isn’t comfortable. At all.
Future-proofing a business means becoming comfortable with discomfort. It also requires adopting 4 critical pillars to create and propagate a culture of innovation:
1. A compelling vision.
It’s remarkable how few businesses operate from a well articulated vision. It’s the one simple (not easy) business tool that can attract, inspire and direct stakeholders. Steve Jobs once convinced a key recruit from a soft drink company by asking a simple, question that reflected Apple’s vision: “Do you want to spend the rest of your career selling sugar water, or do you want to change the world?”
2. Humble leadership.
While confidence is a definitive characteristic of leadership, it’s most effective when packaged with humility. Many leaders are trapped in the attitude of ‘failure is the enemy of success’ and so game-changing ideas should be their domain exclusively. Wrong. Innovative leaders step aside to empower their organization to experiment (and fail) in an effort to generate new, better ways of doing things. That’s true confidence.
3. An innovation strategy.
If what you’re doing to innovate doesn’t align with what the business is doing, you‘re headed for headaches. Creating an innovation-lead culture is a significant investment. Businesses that reap consistent return on their innovation efforts operate from a plan that’s as well communicated, understood and adopted as their corporate strategy.
4. Measured implementation.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Innovation is a cultural attitude of — and commitment to — ongoing, everyday improvement. The most successful innovation programs are committed to the process and the result. That process can be measured weekly and doing so allows leadership to spot potential potholes long before blowing a tire driving over one. Measurement injects nimbleness into the process, providing adjustment time for what isn’t working, while learning from what is working. The results will take care of themselves.
So to paraphrase and slightly re-phrase one of my favorite sayings: ‘Life (and innovation) begin at the end of your comfort zone.’ And as with anything worthwhile, the rewards of innovation also lie outside of what is comfortable.