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Are you killing Innovation with your Logical bent of mind?

Admin 14-May-2019

Being Innovative is the need of the hour today.  Almost all organizations irrespective of their size are running or aspire to run innovation programs that demand huge investment in time and Money.  These programs are planned to achieve hard benefits like productivity gains, reduced cost, improved cash flow etc which majorly come through the Process improvement projects that are mentored by professionals. More often than not, these programs achieve the hard benefits as planned and success stories are published followed by celebrations.

Things to Ponder upon:-

How different these Innovation programs are from a continuous improvement program which is aimed to improve selective “Metrics” like productivity, cost, defect etc.

Is this the best we could achieve out of these Innovation programs?

Are we  building a new “Thought process” in the organization through these innovation programs or we feel complacent with one time benefits as called out in the project SMART goal statement?

If the answer to any of the above is negative, we really need to revisit the purpose of such programs.

The biggest challenge I see in these Innovation programs is that they try to be as logical as possible.  On contrary, we can’t be Innovative and Logical at the same time.   Let’s take a pause here and understand perspective of Innovation.

In our personal or professional life, we use our experience, historical data,  structured problem solving approach etc.  to solve for  any challenges we encounter. This is what we grew learning from our “Torch bearers” ?   No doubt, this has helped us solve myriad of problems we have come across. We can call this a “Conventional” way to counter any situation, at least for the sake of this discussion.

One  challenge with this approach is that our thoughts get confined in a perimeter created by our own experience. Actually, we never can know what is the best possible solution for a problem, so we tend  to ‘Hypothesize’.  Consider following fact:

If Alexander Graham Bell had used then available logic, he would never have thought of creating Telephones and those magical words “Mr Watson- Come here I want to see you” would never be heard. For that generation,  it was considered impossible for people to make audio calls. We now can make video calls though! Thanks to the technology. There are many such inventions that we know from our past. Mind you, these were all innovative ideas which never took people’s attention until they were actually implemented.

Innovation is just opposite of being Logical. The foundation of all inventions is an innovative idea, an illogical thought in the first place. Being Innovative should mean thinking beyond existing boundaries. It can start with any illogical thought followed by a logical “How”.  Allow me explain it a little more:

We know that fossil fuel reserves are finite – it’s only a matter of time when they run out. They took millions of years to become so, and when they’re gone, they’re gone pretty much forever.

How do we solve for this problem?

Our logical mind encourages us to either increase the supply or reduce the demand. Both of these situations are almost impossible to achieve in this case, hence an innovative solution is required.

On  the other hand, Innovative mind pushes us to find an alternate fuel source like water, electricity, solar energy etc.  In fact, we’ve already learned to use electricity, solar energy, Natural Gas as alternate fuel and no wonders if we see cars propelled by “Water” in future. If we are fortunate enough, maybe we see “Time machine” launch in future which will make vehicles redundant.  Time travel possibilities can be concluded from famous “Theory of relativity” proposed by Einstein.

Human mind is capable of doing wonders. It abides by Newton’s law of inertia. i.e,  It won’t stop furnishing ideas unless or until stopped by a force. 

Let’s get back to where we started, and close the loop on  professional Innovation programs.

First of all, Innovation programs shouldn’t be confused with Continuous improvement programs. Benefits from Innovation programs won’t appear on surface in short term as opposed to any continuous improvement program. Most of the Benefits from Innovation program are realized in long term but the benefits are exponentially higher than any conventional improvement programs. Enumerating a few thoughts on this-:

  1. Innovation programs should  be targeted to collect innovative ideas rather than collection of continuous Process improvement projects which will only provide incremental gains. It must be designed to allow creative thoughts from audience.
  2. Collection of innovative ideas should be followed by creative “How to” sessions where the implementation feasibility of  ideas generated are deep dived. Long term and short term implementation plans need to be crafted. Below diagram will help you understand it better.

  1. It should be targeted to build culture of innovative thought process which will provide a tailwind to innovative idea generations.
  2. Since the gains are not immediate, ROI need be thought through.

I hope you enjoyed the reading! Feel free to comment.

Good day!

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