Having a mindset of an innovator will open your eyes to the opportunities right in front of you as well as enable you to create opportunities that are yet to materialize. Here, you will take the first steps to developing the mindset of an innovator so that you can more effectively innovate everywhere throughout your organization.
Innovating Is an Ongoing Activity
Innovation is not an end-all objective; it is a continuous flow of “fuel” that turbo-boosts the effectiveness and performance of entire organizations. Leaders who understand that innovating everywhere is an ongoing activity that needs to be performed in conjunction with the 11 other ET activities, dramatically improve outcomes, and conversely, if leaders do not innovate, they put their organizations at risk.
If they hadn’t done these things and even one of these areas experienced a failure to keep pace, their products, services, and entire organizations could have faced extinction. When you’re continually thinking about ongoing innovations within the context of the ET framework, your thoughts and decisions move your organization forward purposely instead of haphazardly, putting your organization in a stronger position to forge its best future.
Innovation Occurs Everywhere
We don’t always recognize the innovations that surround us, yet when you become aware of how innovating occurs everywhere, you can recognize opportunities to make even simple improvements through innovating, like changing the way your staff answers the phone, bills your clients, applies for funding, or generates leads.
Whether your organization sells products, offers services, or plays the role of support arm for another organization or group, innovating is essential to its growth and survival. Look around your organization and consider the many areas of it you can improve by innovating: Legal partners can innovate by creating an online database to enable their staffers and clients quick access to information resulting in improved client services. A university research library can adopt data-mining software that empowers researchers to compile data in minutes rather than days, giving the researchers more time to examine and use the data. A salesperson can use a wiki, a type of software that allows several people to edit website content, to help manage a group project. If we thought more about the innovations that surround us every day, we might stop thinking of innovation as some difficult or occasional activity.
Order Winners Come from Innovating
Innovation is intrinsic to generating (and maintaining) Order Winners, which impel people to select your organization and its offerings over those of your competitors, eventually slip off their pedestals and become mere Order Qualifiers—characteristics that allow you to participate on par with competitors—as your competitors either mimic your Order Winners or come up with unique Order Winners of their own. A patented pharmaceutical product can remain on the market as an Order Winner until the patent expires and competing pharmaceutical companies launch their own versions of the same product. To remain ahead of the pack of followers, you would need to breathe life into your next new Order Winner by innovating.
Innovating Is Not Synonymous with Being Creative
Innovating and being creative are not the same. Innovating improves a condition or product and helps you reach your Desired Outcome. Being creative doesn’t mean you accomplish either objective.
If you’re having difficulty making the distinction, many of the ET tools can systematically point you in the right direction. For example, when you use the CST Model to strategize, you create clearly defined Desired Outcome. When you’re innovating, the tactical options you entertain will align with those Desired Outcome. But if you were just being creative, you could be pulling any idea out of the air without any certainty that it will be strategically advantageous to your organization.
Everyone Should be Thinking about Innovating
You might have your doubts that everyone can or should be an innovator, but even the most unexpected potential contributors on your staff should not be discounted. (That’s why later in this chapter, you will learn techniques for fostering innovation throughout your organization.)
People in management and in the field should always be thinking about innovation; it’s just that some of them still need to follow strict guidelines or continue to work within highly structured environments so as not to confuse innovation with haphazardness.