In today’s economy, and with today’s new business models, innovation is more than ever the lifeblood of business. Yet every day businesses let that lifeblood flow away. Every day countless innovative ideas and opportunities are lost; and we need to act now to stop it. We need to train our first responders.
Innovation’s first responders are the people most likely to be present when an innovative idea occurs. Yet they are often ignored in this context. Sheer numbers dictate that it is more likely that a team lead or junior manager will be present (as opposed to someone senior) when a new, innovative idea is presented. But how many of those people are able to capture innovation when it occurs, or to ensure it has the best possible opportunity to succeed? How many of them have been trained to create an innovative culture within their team?
Innovation loss happens more that you might imagine. Most of us have run across headlines related to a new product or service that was presented as “innovative”, “leading edge”, or “groundbreaking” (insert your own superlative here) and thought: “That should be us!”; or “We had that years ago!” And if those “others” patented the idea you may actually have to pay to receive the benefit from an idea that you may have had long before the patent holder.
The magnitude of this problem cannot be quantified. In hindsight you may be aware of some innovative ideas that passed you by. But how many of these situations are you unaware of? By definition, you will never know. Though I believe that the number is several times those cases that you are aware of.
We must be diligent and train our newest leaders and managers – our first responders – so innovation has the best chance of survival. That means teaching them to:
Incidentally, not all senior people are skilled at these things; and they can be first responders too. Though it is more likely they will have experience and skill in this area, it may be dangerous to assume they do.
I believe untrained first responders may be the leading cause of innovation loss today. Changing this does not require a tremendous amount of effort, but it does require intent.
Stop the loss! Train your first responders.