Why Innovation Must Be Balanced with Discipline

by Granville Triumph

Innovation is critical to sustained business success. The moment you rest on your laurels and stop trying to innovate is the moment you begin to lose your competitive advantage. However, innovation alone doesn’t guarantee success.

Some organizations devote significant time and energy to achieving that “wow” factor but lack the organizational discipline required to properly develop, produce and deliver their innovations. In other words, poor execution can doom even the most innovative ideas.

On the other hand, some organizations force innovation to the backburner in favor of achieving short-term goals. It takes a long time to see the results of innovation, and these organizations are often afraid or unwilling to commit to a long-term proposition.

An organization can be truly innovative only if innovation is part of the company culture, instilled and encouraged from the top so it permeates all levels of the organization. Innovation can’t be a job function. It can’t succeed when tied to one individual or department whose responsibility is to come up with new ideas.

For example, the IT department can’t be solely responsible for introducing and delivering ideas for innovative IT solutions. Anyone is capable of coming up with an idea that fills a need or solves a problem, and it takes a team to elevate innovation from a clever idea to a tangible product or service that makes people’s lives better.

Making innovation part of the company culture involves developing a formal process for evaluating, researching, cultivating and potentially funding new ideas, regardless of who introduced them. This disciplined approach enables organizations to collaborate and gain consensus about which ideas are worth developing. It also helps them offer alternative ideas and avoid wasting time on those ideas that probably don’t have much potential. Just like innovation shouldn’t be the job function of an individual or group, decisions about new ideas shouldn’t be left to a select few.

Having a formal process is one component of a business strategy for managing innovation. This strategy begins with hiring people who are willing and able to offer and inspire innovative ideas that blend both creative and analytical thinking. This talent needs to be managed and nurtured in order to develop innovation that provides real business value by honing in on defined focus areas. Finally, any successful innovation strategy must include measurement and reporting in order to assess the impact of innovation.

Discipline doesn’t stifle innovation. Discipline enables innovation to blossom.

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