Time. It’s a killer. Those little hands never stop moving. Constantly ticking away…

It won’t come as any surprise that the biggest barrier to innovation success is a lack of time. Every organisation does not enough time to do everything that they want. And in the fight, innovation doesn’t usually get to the ring, sometimes not even the arena.

But here’s the rub. Everyone is in the same boat, yet somehow, innovation still happens, even when facing the old foe, time. Some people are beating time, and achieving amazing innovation. How? Have they got a time machine or have slowed time down? What’s their secret?

They’ve made innovation both important and urgent.

Not many people out there still need convincing that innovation is important. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise the speed and amount of change taking place. Tell me when you last heard someone say, “we don’t need innovation here.” So innovation is important, but is it urgent?

What happens if you don’t focus on innovation today? I suspect nothing, it will be ok. Just like if you don’t exercise today. Sure, it will be ok if I don’t exercise for a few weeks or even months, and then, “boom”, a health issue will appear from nowhere. That was so unexpected or was it?

It’s the same with innovation. Not focusing on innovation today won’t kill your business, the organisation will probably carry on okay, but gradually, bit by bit, it will slow, then fall behind, until finally, it is irrelevant. If you’re lucky it will happen like that, but I suspect it will be somewhat faster in reality…

So don’t delay, make innovation important and urgent today. Here’s some ways that can help you make that change.

  1. Strategic alignment: Firstly, make sure that innovation is aligned to your strategic priorities. There’s no point forging tangental paths for your business and for innovation, they are partners in the journey of success. Innovation is the enabler of a better business – it may mean that your strategy needs to change – but innovation and strategy must not be separated.
  2. Leadership support: Once your strategy and innovation are aligned, it is essential that every leader is bought-in and gets it. Innovation is hard enough without in-fighting; ensure every leader understands why, can communicate the why to their people and visibly demonstrate their support. Those that can’t get on board, may need to “get off.”
  3. Define roles: It’s essential that everyone understands the goals and how they should be involved in innovation. It’s not just about skills, it’s about mindset and behaviours too. You don’t need ideas from everyone, but you do need people to get involved in each stage of the innovation lifecycle; help people find their place, role and “sweet-spot”. Collaboration will be key to your success.
  4. helpGet help: Recognising and admitting you need help is the first step, now find people who will keep you on the right track. They could come from inside or outside the organisation, the key is to allow them the freedom to challenge and keep you honest. Just like a personal trainer, you need their discipline to succeed, and you must let them to perform in this role (even if you know you’re going to hate it).
  5. Right metrics: Finally, choose the right goals and targets that support your innovation journey. Consider how you reward the right behaviours, such as taking risks and smart failures. Reward for outcomes and behaviours, making sure that the people that get rewarded are supporting and driving the organisation forward for the future, not just the near-term.

Ultimately, it’s about priorities. Do you really want it? Well, as I have heard people say, “if you are going to play, make sure you play properly.”

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