"The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage." ~Arie du Geus
"Make failure your teacher, not your undertaker." ~ Zig Ziglar
Making innovation easy for everyone is one of the hallmarks of an amazing leader, but we need to set the stage for ourselves as well. Not all innovations are successful and work out. Worrying about wasting your and your team’s time/effort is one of the leading causes of a lack of innovation. This is why it is a best practice to “beta test” any innovation in a small setting first, before rolling it out organization wide.
Starting out in as flexible an environment as possible allows you to adjust your plans and test things with as little time and effort as possible. This means that you may do things the hard way initially, to ensure that they are the right way before you spend the time and effort to make them easy.
The example I see most often in the business environment is with Excel spreadsheets and reporting. Typically with enough time and effort you can automate the creation of the spreadsheet down to the point where you push a button or import some data and it configures itself. But FIRST you need to make sure that you have the right information presented in the right way. Spending the hours or days necessary to automate could be completely wasted if you are lacking in either of these two areas. In these cases it is worth spending the 30 minutes to do it the long way a few times to ensure you don’t waste the days of automation effort.
Be methodical in your innovation, don’t rush
Let’s take an extreme example to illustrate the point even further by looking at the design of a car:
- First it is drawn on paper
- Changed and redrawn hundreds of times
- Then it is drawn in a computer aided design program
- Adjusted and tweaked hundreds of times
- Then a full size replica is made in clay
- Small enhancements and adjustments made
- Then a one-off prototype is fabricated without all of the “guts” (engine, transmission, etc)
- Further structural tweaks are made
- Then a prototype with “guts” is made
- Changes made based on consumer feedback
- Then it rolls into production
Imagine the wasted effort if you skipped even one of these steps and had to go back. Think about this the next time you innovate. Play with and adjust your product or process in an environment that allows for change with minimal effort before you take the time to carve it into stone. Focus on this and you’ll find it far easier and more enjoyable to innovate. Avoid this and you’ll find your rush to innovate resulting in no innovation at all as you are going back and forth in the roll-out process.