IDEO’S CEO Discusses Innovation

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, was recently interviewed in the The McKinsey Quarterly. IDEO is the gold standard in providing design solutions and creating brealthrough innovations for companies. So it was great to hear what Brown has to say about innovation. In many ways, Brown reinforces the new management imperative that I call “Turn Innovation Into A Continuous Process.”

Here are some quotes from Brown that I found to be particularly interesting:

If you don’t have a process for choosing projects, starting projects, doing projects, and ending projects, you will never get very good at innovation.

My take: Formalized processes provide innovation with the appropriate visibility, funding, and allotment of time and attention.

You really notice a difference in organizations where the senior leadership immerses itself in innovation… by, for example, playing an active role in reviewing the innovation that’s going on at various levels in the organization in order to give people permission to take risks.

My take: Most ideas don’t work out; if you want to cultivate great ideas, you need to embrace some failures.

The antibodies that organizations naturally have to fight new ideas win out. It’s often the role of senior leadership to defend new ideas until they’re actually out in the marketplace…

My take: It’s easy for people to keep doing what they’ve always been doing, so there’s often a strong constituency for the status-quo.

The biggest barrier is needing to know the answer before you get started… Wanting to know whether you’ve got the right idea—or the assumption that you’ve got to have a business case—before beginning to explore something kills a lot of innovation.

My take: Early stage ideas often need to be cultivated until they’re understood enough to develop a realistic business plan.

It’s better to have a bigger ecosystem for innovation than a smaller one. You’re going to get more ideas and increase the likelihood of better ideas. The more people, all other things being equal, the better for innovation.

My take: Innovation can’t just “live” in an R&D organization.

In the end, all businesses exist to serve some kind of human purpose. If you can’t somehow frame what you do in terms of having an impact on the world, I don’t see how you can have a very effective business… People want to work on things they believe in.

My take: A key theme in my discussions about leadership is that executives need to create a strong sense of purpose. That’s why one of my 6 New Management Imperatives is to “Provide a clear and compelling purpose.”

The bottom line: Innovation takes strong leadership

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

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