I persistently keep running into organizations with an overarching dilemma – “We don’t have a consistent and common view of what ‘innovation’ is within our organization.” Still, I am delighted when they arrive at this insight, because awareness is the first step towards making a difference.
Why an innovation slogan?
We may call it an ‘innovation slogan’, but what we mean is your organization’s own definition of “innovation” formulated in an easy-to-digest manner. Having a common understanding of what innovation means within your own company is paramount to setting a shared direction for your innovation efforts. If there is confusion regarding the substance of innovation it will most definitely lead you astray. Misconceptions by co-workers whether their splendid ideas would count as ‘innovations’ or not may lead to unnecessary work by them and unwarranted turndowns by the leadership. You may have asked for disruptive innovations from your co-workers, but when they actually show up with such, you reject them because of the high risk level it involves. It is important to ensure consensus on the expectations for innovation or you may unwillingly be creating Johari windows for yourselves and there will be gaps in the comprehension of the objectives for innovation.
So to confirm alignment in the perception of innovation in your organization it is a wise choice to create your own innovation slogan. Pulling in the same direction will promote innovation culture as well. In fact, not having unanimity in the apprehension on innovation will be counterproductive and regress innovation initiatives.
One very important reason to clarify your own distinction of innovation is the fact that innovation is individually perceived. We all have different backgrounds and experiences, so we interpret the scope very differently. For instance, if something is brand new to me I will perceive it as innovative. But if you have been working with the very same solution for months you will perceive it as old news. Imagine the diversity of perception in a company with a thousand employees.
A good innovation slogan can also illuminate some minimum and maximum levels of innovation. Are our innovations supposed to be disruptive or is it satisfactory to be just above incremental? And to whom should innovations be new, is it adequate if a solution is new just to the organization, despite the fact that the core competitors already have it, or does it have to be new to the industry? (Or even new to the world?) What types of innovations are we looking for, technologies, product/service offerings, internal and administrative solutions, or simply anything that is beneficial to the company? The innovation slogan provides answers to questions never asked (but often presumed). Through explication we can create greater focus and minimize superfluous endeavors.
How to put the innovation slogan in motion
The innovation slogan summarizes the direction for innovation and becomes the core part of the innovation strategy. If communicated well it gets everybody aboard quickly and generates concentrated and focused innovation efforts. It is common practice to have a dedicated innovation fund for “extraordinary projects”. And when such a fund is in place there seems to grow a tendency for most employees to consider their pipeline projects “innovative” and “extraordinary” to get hold of those extra funds. The Innovation slogan will save everybody a lot of anxiety and effort by being clear from the offset on what types of project applications will be considered innovative and thereby may be awarded funding.
So how to get to it?
Set up a workshop with those who are strategically responsible for supplying and governing innovations in your business. Find the most valuable areas to cover in your innovation slogan, such as levels, types, degrees, and forms of innovation. Discuss mutually how innovation should be defined in your organization and what would be most important. Formulate into two to three distinct sentences, no more than 20-30 words. Be very specific with the semantics and evaluate every word several times. Run user tests with (random) co-workers to assess how the slogan is interpreted by them. Summarize and have the management team or the board of directors approve the innovation slogan. Fine-tune and formalize and there you are! Then collaborate with your communications team to make everybody aware of how innovation is defined for you. Tadaa! 🎉 No biggie.