Getting Big Things Done

RES Newsletter Volume 5

A Practical Recipe for Innovation

by: Charles Black, CEO of RES

I don’t like the word “Innovation”.  The word itself is so highly overused that it has obtained an almost mystical or seemingly unattainable feel, prompting most to give up on Innovation before they ever begin.  Yet almost every organization pins their future growth on their ability to innovate.  If innovation is so hard to achieve, and yet most organizations are betting their future on it, we better get good at innovating.

At RES, one of my many core responsibilities requires a delicate balance – daily reinforcing a consistent drive to advance and courageously pursuing “what’s next”, while also ensuring our organization actually has the means necessary to pull it off.  Fortunately, I have been in this position before, having led Global Innovation for a very large organization, a position where I was not only forced to develop a strong opinion on innovation, but also required to create a recipe for actually doing it.

Since my colleagues and I have been in the innovation business for close to a decade, we wanted to share our own recipe for what it takes to innovate.

1. A Big Challenge
There simply has to be a pressing need to force an organization to take innovation seriously.  An industry in transformation or even jeopardy, shifting consumer preferences, stalled or declining revenue, emerging competitive threats, or new leadership with a new agenda.  It doesn’t matter what flavor the big challenge is – you simply need one to exist.

2. Passionate People
Once a challenge exists, we need passionate people to attack it.  From my experience, these people are not the ones with big executive titles or the most educational achievements on their resume.  Sure, you need someone with relevant experience, but I always prefer handing the task to the individual who wakes up at 3 AM with amazing ideas, stays late at the office because they are “so close to figuring it out”, and would trade title or compensation any day for the chance to actually do something great that they can be proud of.

3. Time & Resources
Now that we have a challenge and passionate people anxious to change the world, let’s arm them and let them run.  This is simple – don’t bog them down with other daily fire drills or tell them they must pull off a great feat with no funding.  If the future of your business depends on innovation, then for heaven’s sake, resource it accordingly.  Solving your big challenge should be their only responsibility and when they come to you with an amazing idea that requires appropriate capital, additional team members, and other resources, give them what they need.

Does your organization have what it takes to Innovate?

Now, if you are reading this, you are probably saying “Well, most of that was obvious…”.  And if so, mission accomplished.  I believe that the best things in business, and life, are simple and elegant on the surface no matter how complex they are under the hood.  While these ingredients may seem simple – my challenge to you is also simple – Are you actually doing ALL of them?

Most organizations are only providing one or two of the ingredients above and, just like a culinary recipe, missing one core ingredient, will lead to poor results.  Some organizations become stale, failing to truly recognize or define their next Big Challenge.  Others create an “Innovation Team” and put a politically connected executive with a long resume in charge of “sponsoring” the effort, only to find the team struggling to breathe in an atmosphere now filled with red tape and politics.  And many organizations simply are not willing to dedicate their best people and arm them with the time, resources, and privilege of focus necessary to succeed.

At RES, our expertise is innovating in all things “strategic network planning”, designing optimal strategies and technologies capable of driving our client’s future core business success.  Our tools and techniques are complex and technical, but the strategies they recommend are simple and elegant.  If you have a Big Challenge, we have the people, time, experience, and resources necessary to help you innovate.

Charles has a passion for helping clients become more strategic. With vast expertise in the Healthcare, Financial Services, Retail, Oil & Gas, and Wholesale industries, Charles has partnered with hundreds of organizations to leverage the power of data and analytics to create innovative business and real estate strategies that transform portfolios and enable core business success.
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