Stop getting everybody onboard for innovation ‘just’ find your catalysts

  • Design your Strategy

There are plenty of reasons for organisations to prioritise innovation as part of their business strategy. Some are trying to stay ahead of disruptors in their industry, others are proactively addressing the potential impact of more global trends, whereas most companies face great pressure to digitally transform the way they do things. But as many of those businesses will attest, it’s not an easy feat.

Our organisations are built to operate in a linear fashion, understanding the needs of our customers, and delivering those needs with a series of established processes that are continually measured with established KPIs. Changing this approach just isn’t in our nature; we’re much more comfortable doing things the way we know how to.

In order to get innovation right, leaders need to continue executing on their current business models while simultaneously uncovering new opportunities for new value creation. And for that, you need the right people focused on innovation.

Identify your innovators

We’re often told that innovation requires getting everyone on board, but that’s not necessarily true. What you actually need is a group of like-minded people that can build on each other’s ideas and foster innovation as a key strategic arm of the business.

Just as a handful of people at a swimming pool will be keen to climb up to the tallest diving board (and jump off it), there are going to be only a few people at your organisation that are comfortable with the concept of uncertainty. These are your innovation catalysts – and they can exist in any part of the business.

Finding the catalysts at all levels of your organisation might seem like a challenge, but there are some key identifiers to keep an eye out for:

  • Excited to be a driver of new value creation
  • A big imagination for what the business could look like the day after tomorrow
  • An ability to use design skills when presented with a business challenge
  • An ability to quickly respond and adapt to change inspiring others
  • An openness to resistance

Once you identify these innovation catalysts, you can connect them and have them work together. By bringing these individuals together and developing a consistent framework for innovation, it’ll be much more straightforward to come up with new products, methodologies, or solutions.

We saw this recently at a well-known furniture firm, where various departments were conceptualising new business models in silos and doing it in disparate ways. Together, we developed a consistent system for innovation that helped put all their ideas and people on the same page.

Find the right balance

While putting the spotlight on your catalysts will be a key driver, it’s just as important to recognise the people at your organisation that aren’t as open to change. The people dedicated to executing your business model will ensure that there is a solid foundation for your catalysts and innovators to build on. They’re still rock stars – they just rock to a different beat.

As part of our work at a major telco-provider, we’ve equipped the B2B management team with this mindset of accommodating and enabling different workforce personas, allowing them both to thrive in the context of a global organisation. This has also made it easier for leaders to back their groups of innovators, which is a crucial part for success. Without the support from leadership, innovation can be a very fragile concept that breaks at the slightest resistance.

Interested to find out more about catalysts and other key innovation enablers? We’d love to connect and discuss these themes within the context of your business.

*The term Catalyst is inspired from Shannon Lucas.


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