The same question can be posed of your Innovation consultant. How did you come to employ your creativity consultant? (or your innovation consultant). Many consultants peddle solutions or best practice which is fine, except for the two cases highlighted here. If you are truly delivering value then surely you must be creative or innovative yourself. How can you add insights if you have never been through the process yourself (and failed)?
To see if you are getting (or going to get) value, you must decide what exactly it is that you want. Do you want someone who is going to challenge the status quo, depart from best practice and explore new areas or perhaps change the way you think about your business and marketplace, or, do you simply want someone to train you in creative thinking techniques and describe processes from (someone else’s) text books?
If you want to be 100% safe then you might be tempted by the seller of best practice. They, however, will be selling the same to all of your competitors so you will not be gaining competitive advantage. In fact when these consultants leave they will have simply given you yet another process to follow.
The consultant that adds real value will have worked with you to identify Innovation champions, spread innovative behaviour and embark upon many cultural changes. A bit like teaching a child to ride a bike, they will show you how, be with you as you wobble and then let go at the right moment! Do you want real Creativity and Innovation or some new processes to follow? The choice is yours.
This article was prompted whilst reading a very long winded debate about the differences between Innovation and continuous improvement. The contributions were many, and most were completely valid statements, however not all were directed at the question that was posed.
Sifting through the answers I sorted them into two streams. There were points about Innovation being a continuum with incremental at one end and radical at the other, building upon existing bases versus new ones and many more. The main issue, I concluded, was one of language or more importantly, grammar.
Some contributors were referring to Innovation and some to Innovations. What is the difference? Well Innovation is the ‘system’ that produces Innovations e.g. the processes that exist to generate ideas, manage know how, prototype etc as well as the necessary behaviours. Innovations are the outputs of the process e.g shiny new gadgets, remote controlled teabags.
Some of the participants seemed to get very irate, they were convinced that they were right. They were right of course, but only within their own frames of reference. When communicating with those who had other frames of reference things went awry. It might be a pain but this highlighted one very important point. Create and use a common language for your wider frame of reference (your organisation or your close collaborators). Simple! And to avoid doubt do not use buzz words such as Innovation.
Talk about the things you are going to do and how you might accomplish them. In the wider world the term Innovation can mean everything, or nothing.