Friday, December 16, 2011

Be method agnostic - for your innovation goals.

Every organization develops certain liking for methods to innovate over a time. I am using ‘Methods” as a broad term – starting from how the R&D division is structured, what are their goals & objectives, who they are answerable to,  processes in place, further extending to the tools and techniques the organization has been using till date.

By being methodical, the organization is trying to bring in some sort of certainty; however there is also a danger of settling in, and getting satisfied with what you come up with. Remember the whole purpose is to innovate, which by all purpose means to come up with something which is new and beneficial - then why not apply the same philosophy for the ecosystem around getting the innovation done?

How about structuring R&D division where every employee, irrespective of his job profile - has to spend say x months in every y years at R&D / Innovation division of the organization. Let’s assume this makes it 20% of your R&D staff is always a rotated staff from other non R&D divisions. While on rotation, you may not produce great results, but just the feel and experience of being in the middle of R&D will continue to add value to your productivity and also to the Organizational Research even after you are back at your usual job profile.

How about making an R&D division have P&L of its own?

How about giving the freedom to use any tool or technique? I know a company where they can’t use 6 thinking hats because they have their own in house methods to brainstorm, no harm in using own methods but why ban other methods.

Collaborative innovation is one of the ways to become method agnostic, because you won’t know what methods the innovator has used, or will not use, most importantly you won’t care about the methods. Other way around is also true, if you truly try to become method agnostic, you are actually becoming more collaborative, more open, because now an accountant also has a chance to be in the research lab, you are more open because you no longer hide your real revenue truly from new research and innovations, you are more open because now an employee is allowed to install a freeware and try out new things in her free time. 

Trying different things and being method agnostic will breed diversity, which has been shown to be the best way to get innovative results.

Not to forget that being method agnostic does not mean getting rid of methods, it mostly means that you are open, collaborative and flexible – basically you are innovative in doing innovation.