Monday, July 3, 2017

Tuning Soft Elements in Innovation Management

There needs to be both “hard” and “soft” elements woven seamlessly into innovation management.

Creativity is, by nature, unique to each person, it is an innate process to create novel ideas. Innovation is to manage novel ideas and generating business value from them. There is no template which you can apply and suddenly have a creative workforce. It has to be done slowly, patiently, and individually. That is why so many companies won't do it. There are both hard elements such as framework, processes or tools as well as soft elements woven together to orchestrate an innovation symphony. Here are three soft elements in innovation management.

Communication element to harness innovation: Communicating about innovation is very important, such as listening, asking questions, giving and receiving feedback, as well as dealing with conflict or even constructively advocating a point of view or building trusted relationships. When we communicate with others, we are talking to each other to shape our ideas around problem-solving. But there are no one-size-fits-all communication styles. In order to make the conversation productive, all parties in or beyond the organization (innovation ecosystem) need to speak the same language. Therefore, establishing a language of innovation is the first--and perhaps the most important step toward creating an innovative environment. Talking and actively listening to one another also creates excitement which propels good ideas to be formed. Thinking aloud really helps test and refine ideas, the trick is selecting the right audience; one that will listen appropriately, constructively challenge your thinking, stimulate you to seek better answers, but most of all provoke you to listen to their ideas. Communicating an idea to others raises the total cognitive threshold. Each of us has a defined cognitive threshold. An upper limit to the level of complexity that we can handle at any one time or on any one topic. Hence, talking to another person about an idea significantly raises the total cognitive threshold available to analyze the situation. Because we all filter information differently based on our experiences, sharing ideas gives depth and shapes a well-rounded concept. It also allows new pieces of information to be synthesized to generate new knowledge and abstracted to the unique insight. Therefore, it is important to speak the same language and practice creative communication to harness innovation. And if you keep perfecting them while communicating the results to the rest of your organization via clarified language, sooner or later, the hard components of innovation management such as structures and processes will become culture.

Emotion life cycle behind innovation: Fundamentally, innovation is all about figuring out the better way to solve problems and pursue truth. There is an emotion life cycle in an innovation management life cycle! So, your emotional well-being has an impact on innovation but All those are the soft touch of digital innovation management. The kind of emotions within a person that triggers an improvement/innovation process can be numerous and most likely will be a combination of multiple emotions  The true conflict in innovation is self-imposed by trying to make our “visions” reality. For example, we need conflict to initiate, but after initiation, there should be a debate to create! There is the “madness” to think “out of the box,” and do things in a new way; individuals will be more innovative if they are so passionate about their jobs that they live it on their own time with the passion for exploring and discovery; they could be more creative if they have the piece of anger to overcome the bias; the right dose of confidence to break down the obstacles and the persistence to manage innovation step by step. So different kind of emotions is involved to truly become innovative. The set of questions to assess your emotion include: What is triggering your emotions? What from the outside world has an impact? What about the right innovation climate? Your personal climate, your team climate or your organizational climate? All humans are bestowed with three basic instincts which are humility, curiosity, and creativity.  Therefore, it is important to create and nurture an environment in your organization where humility is appreciated, curiosity is encouraged, and creative thinking is rewarded. Part of creating an organizational environment that facilitates creativity involves paying attention to employee wellbeing and building individual emotional resilience to generate more positive emotions and reducing unnecessary organizational pressures, and let creativity flow and make innovation as a core business competency.

Culture as the melting pot to inspire creativity: In the age of abundant information, rapid changes, and hyperconnectivity, many believe there is no innovation without diversity. Diversity is not an idea. It is not something you need to plan for. It is a basic reality of the modern digital world that needs to be better understood and well orchestrated. Diversity is a facilitator for merging significant building blocks of new and existing ideas and concepts. It is an excellent engine for creativity. Therefore, it is important to build a culture of innovation as the melting pot to inspire creativity and encourage free thinking and experimenting. The exercise of blending people's problem-solving abilities to produce the desired outcome is a worthwhile thing to do. It is not just a mere cumulation of the creative inputs of those involved.  It has its own dynamic that is in a state of constant flux. At team setting, the collective creativity is only achieved through the diversity of thoughts. A creative team should have the cogitative difference and diversified worldview. They are almost accidentally collaborating, clarifying, building on each other's ideas, discovering nuances and unexpected relationships, and so on, all of which enriches the thinking and contributes to a fabulously rich output. To use the diversity of ideas as a rich source of connectivity and relationship, to harness all the spontaneity of interaction the group is capable of and provoke breakthrough thinking to arrive at creative outcomes that would be otherwise very unlikely.

There needs to be both “hard” and “soft” elements woven seamlessly into innovation management. Human communication and interactions, emotion life cycle management, open culture,  transparency of management, staff engagement, recognition of effort and an optimized process flow are all important to spark creativity and build innovation into the core business competency.


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