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How do you innovate?

Do an internet search on 'innovation' and, on any given day, you'll see news articles on everything from electric cars, to scaffolding, to European legumes. Innovation is helping organisations across every industry sector to respond to change, solve problems, adapt to new technologies, and identify opportunities. But how often have you thought about the way you innovate? We've identified some key pointers that might help you on your way.

The innovation lightbulb

A recent HBR article on innovation summed up analysis of five years of data from 154 public companies covering over 3.5 million employees. Their findings? Innovation is a science. The analysis suggests that the key to innovation is the 'ideation rate' - or the number of ideas approved by a company divided by the number of employees. The higher the ideation rate, the greater the growth. So unlocking innovation depends on creating ways to increase this ideation rate.

How do you do this? The research recommends four key steps. The first suggests that the more people involved in developing new ideas, the better. So, find ways to involve as many of your employees as you can. The next points to frequency. Introduce opportunities for your employees to generate and submit their ideas, and create a culture of innovation. Third is engagement, encouraging people to get involved in evaluating ideas, and working with colleagues to make them better. The final step is diversity, drawing in employees from all areas of the organisation and from all backgrounds to contribute to the process.

All of this will help you to create a mature innovation culture and system, where ideas are generated, evaluated, and - the best - supported. But not all organisations are at this stage. What about those companies, departments, teams, or even individuals, who want to be innovative and aren't this far down the innovation road?

Help is at hand! A first step might be Nesta's innovation landscape. This helpful guide draws on research to classify different 'spaces' for innovation:

Nesta Innovation Landscape
  1. Intelligence space: making sense of reality

  2. Solution space: testing and developing solutions

  3. Talent space: developing skills and encouraging people

  4. Technology space: approaches and technologies that support change

Click on the image and you'll be able to see that each space has a range of activities within it. You'll be able to find one that suits your approach to innovation. Need more help? Why not try out the DIY Toolkit, which has online tools and tips to help you on your innovation journey. And you might want to think about the benefits of open innovation. The InnoCentive Blog is a great place to start.

Remember: innovation is about creating, testing, refining, and implementing new ideas. So be open to different approaches and challenge your usual ways of thinking. Don't be afraid of ideas that don't work - and embrace those that do.


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