Why innovation is still a challenge for many organizations and how a focus on interlinks can help to increase innovation.

The increasing complexity of the business world, mainly driven by the increase of competition and technologies, forces organizations to leverage innovation. In fact, a recent McKinsey study shows that 80% of CEOs think that their current business model is at risk (https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/how-we-help-clients/growth-and-innovation). The research also shows that only 6% of executives are satisfied with the innovation process in their organization. Why?

Innovation required three basic conditions to grow within organizations: 

1) Reduce risk-averse and the obsession for efficiency. Innovation success rates are lower than any other activity in organizations. Innovation is all about taking risks and spending resources to turn ideas into reality. The risk of innovation and spending resources on an initiative with a low probability of success are not supported by the classical risk-averse and efficiency culture that are common practices in organizations.

2) The ability of people to make mistakes without being penalized. Many organizations understand that people learn from mistakes. They are more relaxed with mistakes, as long as people will learn from their mistakes. While this is a good rule for “business as usual” activities, it is not applicable for creativity. Creativity is the business of creating something new all the time. Failing is the norm while dealing with creativity. Repeating mistakes is one tool to find, create and implement new ideas. Creativity requires different levels of tolerance for mistakes.

3) Breaking the classical structure to create new connections. Many times, creativity is the process of collaboration between people with different backgrounds, experiences, and expertise. When people with diverse backgrounds work together, they combine the current practices of their domains into one creative solution. It’s not enough for people to meet over coffee once a day to start significant creativity. They need to work together for a long time to enable the emergence of good and impactful ideas. The problem is that in most organizations segregating people by knowledge and experience trump any other methods of organization.

The main challenge that prevents creativity from reaching its expectation is a change in management concepts that innovation requires. Without the right adjustment to management, innovation won’t be able it full potential. The need to run the business and to prove stockholders that their money well spends force companies to be more risk-averse and to focus on efficiencies. This focus reduces the conductive conditions required to increase innovation. 

Having the visibility of people’s interactions, impacts and information flow between them in organizations can help leadership to increase creativity with a better understanding of creativity impacts on risk level and waste of resources. Until now, many organizations have ignored the data that interlinks between organization constituents can provide. Being able to capture and visually see this data provides the ability to better understand a risk or waste that are caused by the captured interlinks. 

Capturing people interactions exposes interactions that exist today. As we mentioned above, current interactions have already failed to reach the creativity level that an organization is looking for. Seeing existing interactions makes it easy to understand which types of new interactions might cause higher creativity. After this realization, new interactions can be tested and measures to see if they are providing higher creativity.

Many times risk aversion and efficiencies result from ignorance of the underlying system of interlinks between people and teams that run the organization. Once decision-makers can view a system, they can see many properties such as redundancy or robustness, that provide stability to a system and reduce the odds of big financial impact or uncontrolled risks that can be a by-product of creativity. Understanding how a system was set-up can reduce the odds of risk or financial impact, and therefore to enable decision-makers to create more conditions that will support innovation.  

A more relaxed attitude for mistakes is probably one of the hardest to change conditions. Management is still influenced by the concept that with enough data on current and part state the future of the organization can be determined and achieved. Management is also focused on breaking problems into smaller and smaller parts that are easier to fix. Many still believe that this is the best way to fix big and complex problems. This approach is still a by-product of seeing organizations as machines and humans as the smaller and faulty parts in the machine. In an environment that the future can be defined and people are the obstacles for achieving a goal, there is a very limited space for people to learn from mistakes.

Focusing on the interactions, impacts, and flows between people help people to understand that they are dealing with a complex system that works like any other organism in nature, not like a machine. This realization helps to understand that mistakes are part of any system’s success. In nature, most mutations will fail. Just a few mutations will survive and make a change. If the last sentence sounds familiar, yes nature is using mutations to be creative.  

If you see the benefit of interlinks (interactions, impacts, and flows) to creativity, but you believe it’s a complex task to carry on and maintain; Galaxies framework can help. Our framework explain what are the steps that you need to take to find interlinks, depict them, find known flaws, fix them and use the data for various challenges most of us experience. 

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