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OPINION

Master the messy innovation Process

In Summary

• The innovation process is messy. This is one mindset that’s worth having. And for some reason, this is one difficult fact for business leaders to accept.

• Many have a utopian view of innovation and how it’s supposed to work.

Ken Osano shows the engine of an electric vehicle at innovation week in the University of Nairobi which is a taxi company operating in Kenya under the name Nopia ride and is economical on June 12, 2019.
Ken Osano shows the engine of an electric vehicle at innovation week in the University of Nairobi which is a taxi company operating in Kenya under the name Nopia ride and is economical on June 12, 2019.
Image: EZEKIEL AMING'A

At this point in my career, I seldom think of innovation in rosy terms – it’s difficult. I’m keenly aware of how it works. So, I’m not carried away by corporate-speak on the matter because I know that after all is said and done, innovation has its principles; ignore these principles at your peril. To succeed at innovation, you must cultivate the mindset that would ensure you win.

The innovation process is messy. This is one mindset that’s worth having. And for some reason, this is one difficult fact for business leaders to accept. Many have a utopian view of innovation and how it’s supposed to work. But the truth is that innovation is a messy affair because it involves people – and people don’t change at the same rate. So, to make innovation work, you must be skilled at navigating its messy terrain. Here are three tips to help you.

Proactive Learning: The mindset required for the innovation process is different from that needed for running an established system. Every innovation effort is a startup venture. Why? Because it’s new – it’s a new approach; a new way of doing things. This means that credibility is in question. The idea is yet to be validated and trusted. This fact puts the leader in an interesting position.

Here, the leader either goes with the traditional or learning approach. The traditional means that you approach the new with an old mindset. The learning posture means that your mind is set to learn and go through the winding road of innovation. You do not try to tackle the new with your old ways of doing things because you understand how frustrating it will be. It simply won’t work.

Peace with Mistakes: This is huge. Being at peace with mistakes means that you have to be prepared to be vulnerable. You must be open to making mistakes. A healthy attitude towards mistakes is vital. This truth is uncomfortable and difficult to accept because many people hate to make mistakes, but it’s the path to innovation.

The Time Factor: Generally, leaders are impatient – and they want to achieve so much in little time with minimal resources. This puts a time squeeze on the innovation process. Interestingly, for proper learning to occur in the innovation process, people must be patient. And this doesn’t mean a slack approach to work, no. But an understanding that innovation occurs at the speed of learning. So, if you feel you’re pressed for time, learn fast.

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