How come that we have turned something that should be valuable, rewarding and meaningful – that is, introducing new services and developing new solutions – into something stressful? Most innovation projects cause stress because the innovation process is either a black hole where everything is unclear or a bureaucratic nightmare where projects are fiercely competing for insufficient resources.
A rewarding and meaningful experience
This summer, I mentored teams in several local entrepreneurship programs, MSEA at George Mason University, ICAP at the Small Business Development Centers in Roanoke and at George Mason, and for the George Washington University- Korean Innovation Center program. These were all very upbeat, fun, rewarding, and cheerful events, in spite of the challenges these entrepreneurs face.
Inexperienced as some are, they have to deal with overwhelming complexities in their customer’s eco systems – such as healthcare and the government. Others battle daunting challenges to develop proprietary solutions – as the case for undergraduate students with limited technological expertise. All lack funding opportunities in the near foreseeable future, which is especially challenging for entrepreneurs that have a family to feed and a mortgage to pay.
Regardless, these entrepreneurs are full of energy and extremely grateful for all the advice and input they received. They are determined to make a difference. Whether they are young undergraduates or people in their midlife who are taking their career in their own hands.
Innovators at a (dis)advantage?
Compared to these entrepreneurs, innovators are at a huge advantage. They don't have to worry about their mortgage payments being in danger. Moreover, they have access to clients, resources, knowledge and a lot more that all works in their favor. Yet, few have the enthusiasm and drive of these entrepreneurs. The question is why?
How rewarding is the innovation experience in your organization?
Perhaps, most employees are comfortable with the status quo and have no drive to innovate. However, there are plenty of employees that strive to make an impact and want their work to be meaningful.
Unfortunately, contributing innovative ideas in a valuable, rewarding, and meaningful way is often difficult. There are many hurdles and hoops innovators need to jump through, even to get started.
A quick check:
What are some of the hurdles an innovators may face? Below is a quick check for common hurdles and hoops that may exist in your organization too.
Do your innovators:
- Spent more than 30 minutes to submit an innovative idea?
- Hear back at the earliest a month later, because it takes up valuable resources to review these ideas promptly?
- Face project approval processes that are ambiguous at least and cumbersome and time consuming at best?
- Have to figure out how to get their idea to practice, each step of the way, as there is no outlined process or path to follow?
- Have to oblige to the same legal, accounting, information technology, vendor, and acquisition policies as all other projects have to comply too, in spite of running small temporary experiments to test things out only?
If you said yes to any of the questions above, you stand a lot to gain by making innovation a less bureaucratic and more rewarding and meaningful experience.
Making innovation meaningful
Participating in innovation can be the differentiator between stressful and meaningful work for employees.
Back to the entrepreneurs, what makes them so committed and happy?
What guides their enthusiasm, is that the path they have chosen has all the elements that contributes to living a meaningful life (from Google):
"When people explain what makes their lives meaningful, they tend to describe four things: having rich relationships and bonds to others; having something worthwhile to do with their time; crafting narratives that help them understand themselves and the world they live in; and having experiences of awe and wonder."
As entrepreneur, you get to experience all these things. Why not as an employee?
Making innovation less bureaucratic in the meantime
How do make innovation more meaningful and take the bureaucracy out of the innovation process in the meantime? By organizing for innovation instead of trying to manage it.
What that means?
Enable people to follow their passion. Encourage them to engage and bond with others in the organization who are interested in pursuing similar goals and objectives. Innovation is a team sport!
Align an individual’s passions with personal development training goals– so innovation becomes a joyful and meaningful task, that is worthwhile pursuing regardless of the outcome, since it provides opportunities for growth.
Provide guidance to innovation teams, leading them through the innovation process one step at the time. A process that helps teams craft their narrative to understand what their clients need, what their organization is willing to support, and whether their innovative idea is the right solution and worth pursing further.
Create experiences of awe and wonder. Having a client say “please, can you solve this problem for me now!" is just an awesome experience. Eye opening observations that teach you that the world is different than you thought, are rewarding too. While they may not lead to the expected and hoped for outcome, they make you a stronger person and add to your experiences. Even a simple "thank you" can do wonders!
Organizing for Innovation
The above is truly not that difficult to accomplish, nor does it require extensive bureaucratic or complicated oversight processes. Rather the opposite.
Focus in your innovation process on the who, how, and why. Chop the process in small manageable tasks that provide meaningful, enriching experiences regardless of the outcomes. Turn innovating into an experience that your employees - especially your most talented ones – want to participate in. If organized well, your innovators are even willing to give up personal time, to make give their innovation dreams a chance.
Don’t believe it? Let us prove how you do it!
We have an offer for you to prove the above is possible, also in your organization.
Invite up to 3 teams or individuals in your organization to participate in our 4-week Drive Challenge. The first step of our innovation program, that provides the building blocks for a successful innovation journey.
If we don’t achieve the goals set out in this program and if your participating team members did not consider participating in the program meaningful, we return you the full program fee. Guaranteed.
We are looking forward to welcoming your innovators in our program and enabling them to have a meaningful and rewarding experience while testing and developing their innovative ideas within the walls of your organization.
Sign up your teams below!
P.S. This offer is valid till October 1, 2018