“People were so excited and then things just went back to business as usual.”
“Leadership announced our new innovation initiatives at the company-wide meeting but then I didn’t hear another word about it.”
“There was a lot of fanfare in the beginning but then it just fizzled out kind of like every other initiative so I just keep my head down and wait for it to pass like everything else.”
These are just a few real statements people have said to me in the past six months when telling me about the culture of innovation at their company. This is what your team is thinking and saying to each other.
They are all suffering from what I call the Launch and Abandon Trap. And it’s a major reason why innovation fails.
First, as leaders, you decide that you are going to launch an innovation initiative. This could be a new process you’ve adopted like Design Thinking, Agile, Lean, or even internally developed. Or, it’s making innovation a higher priority as you move through changing times. Regardless of the impetus, you launch your new initiative with major fanfare. You partner with a consulting firm that helps you systematize the processes. You assemble a committee to put together an innovation kick-off session. Or maybe you have the leader of the department or company make an inspiring, yet urgent, speech about the importance of innovation at the annual team meeting.
Things are off to a great start. You can feel the excitement. Your people are ready to innovate. Everyone leaves the meeting high-fiving and heads back to their offices to innovate.
In the first week, you notice a difference. Meetings have a different tone to them. April came to you with an innovative solution to a challenge your department has been facing. You overheard someone else saying to a colleague, “what if we thought differently about this.” You even see people raising their heads up to collaborate with each other.
You think “mission accomplished, innovation is becoming a daily part of your company’s culture.”
Then a few weeks go by and you notice the shift. The shift back to business as usual. Meetings start to sound the same. The excitement that was once there has been replaced with the same old energy as before. People are back in their silos with their heads down.
What happened? Like many others I work with, you fell into the Launch and Abandon trap. You fueled up the innovation fires, launched big, and then cut the engines when it mattered most – after launch when you need to sustain your momentum.
Now you are left scratching your head wondering why your innovation efforts failed. They failed because you fell into the Launch and Abandon trap.
You aren’t alone. I see this time and time again. It’s an easy trap to fall into.
And here’s the secret, it’s easy to avoid if you think about innovation as something that continually needs to be fueled.
In our work at LaunchStreet, what I’ve seen work wildly successfully with our clients is a 4-step process that ignites, launches and sustains innovation, infusing it into the DNA of your organization, and most importantly, your people.
4- Steps To Avoiding Launch and Abandon and Creating Sustainable Innovation:
Tap the power of all the people in your organization by helping them discover their natural innovation abilities and see how they impact the organization, regardless of their title or years of experience. As we’ve discovered through our Innovation Quotient Edge Assessment, when innovation becomes personal, buy-in and engagement increase drastically.
# 2 Ignite:
This is where you launch your innovation initiative. As they say, go big or go home. Build on step one by making this as much a professional development opportunity for them (how they can bring more innovation to their work) as it is a company-wide initiative. The reality is they are interlinked and you won’t get to company-wide innovation without the people behind it. Get people excited about the future you are building and how they are a part of making that change happen.
This is where the rubber starts to meet the road. People have bought into your culture of innovation shift but they need help. They need easy to digest and simple to implement tools. Remember, they haven’t been engaging their innovation abilities and need to re-ignite them. What we’ve discovered with our online IQE Pro ToolKit is that when people are reminded weekly to innovate and have tools at their fingertips 24/7 they are more likely to believe, and hence ignite innovation daily.
The prior stage helps you sustain but sometimes you need more than a great tool. What we’ve found with clients is that support elements like quarterly leadership town hall meetings where they can share best practices and work through challenges, or organization-wide innovation office hours ensures that the innovation fuel continues to burn bright.
Avoiding the frustrations of Launch and Abandon can be a simple 4 step process that transforms innovation from “just another initiative” or a “point-in-time exercise” into the hearts and minds of your people, your culture and your bottom line. Organizations that engage in the steps mentioned above compete, and win because innovation happens every day, across their entire organizations.
That’s a powerful competitive advantage.
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Tamara Ghandour of GoToLaunchStreet is a TED speaker and entrepreneur. From building and running multimillion dollar businesses, advising Fortune 500 like Disney, Procter and Gamble and RICOH on fostering innovative ideas and people. Tamara’s life is about breaking through the status quo for game-changing results, and that’s what her keynotes, online programs and assessments can do for you.