If innovation is the means by which we can most forcefully move quarterly earnings and ROI forward, we must first find our courage.
Fear is an instinct that is intended to keep us safe, however in the midst of innovation, it's dangerous. Sometimes fear is legitimate but most often it is a con artist whispering lies to keep us small. So how do we become the innovative beings we were made to be? Stare fear in the face and resolve to move forward with conviction. Let’s look at how best to build the courage to carry us through the process of innovation including hard work, best practices and measurable results. For those who want to live and work courageously, keep reading.
To make the leap from creativity to ROI, let’s break it down into 4 steps.
1) Vulnerability is the Starting Line
Innovation begins with a decision of ‘I’m going to do this, and I’m committed to the process no matter the outcome.’ Our best work is usually accomplished when hanging it all out. It’s also where we feel most alive, and afraid. Brene Brown, author of ‘Daring Greatly’ in a recent interview stated, “There is no creativity without vulnerability. It’s having the guts to show up and be seen when there is no guarantee on the outcome.” Vulnerability is necessary for creativity because our most creative selves are at the core of who we are. Creative innovation starts with a humble posture of admitting you’ve got half the answer or maybe the wrong answer entirely. It might be hitting send on the slide deck that outlines an idea we think could be great but may also be met with a great deal of criticism.
2) Do the Work Inspite of Fear
Execution must drive us in spite of fear. It’s continuous courageous action that builds resilience and focus in us. And while it’s possible that our best efforts may fail and we might be criticized or marginalized, innovation requires that we continue forward with some serious work to refine our idea. Tim Ridout, Huffington Post contributor writes, “Creativity involves trying new things that may seem eccentric, challenge our assumptions, or push the limits of our inherited norms. Creative endeavors require an uninhibited flow of thought and imagination, followed by meticulous processing and refinement. Eventually, these ideas take final form in something new and valuable. But before they do, the creator must sift through countless amorphous concepts and faulty notions.” Our work can define us because we spend so much time at it. We fear that it might not turn out right; we also fear that if it does turn out really well, we might not be ready to handle the expectations that could be forced upon us. Having a mental construct for managing that fear gives us perspective, safety and confidence in the innovation process. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” discusses the idea that creativity is not a solo event. “The Greeks and Romans both believed in the idea of an external [fairy] of creativity – a sort of house elf, who lived within the walls of your home [and would] aid you in your labors. The Romans called this a genius. Which is to say the Romans didn’t believe that an exceptionally gifted person was a genius; they believed that an exceptionally gifted person had a genius.” The key here is that the creative process is not done in a closet by ourselves, we must have help. In the corporate environment, creativity should be a team experience, where the refinement process is shared and so is the defeat or glory. This way we can pick each other up and agree it’s time to pivot, re-iterate and re-buff the critics. There is less time for self-loathing when we have someone else to sit with us and empathize that missing the mark was painful. It’s also the best place to remind each other that the journey was pretty cool and that innovation is worth pursuing and risking for once again.
3) Creativity by numbers
Getting from creativity to profitability is the key and to get there let's look at some best practices to be followed. Google operates in a posture of expected excellence. Their requirement is to: ‘[Describe] an idea in less than six words [to] clarify it.’ Veronique Lafargue, Global Head of Content Strategy, with Google states their process “is [one] that can be taught, learned, and shared. We've distilled our own approach into a set of three basic principles…a linear process for brainstorming new ideas and turning them into actual products.” These steps are: A) Know your user. To solve a big question you first have to focus on who you're solving it for. Googlers regularly go out and talk to people in the field to make sure they get it right. B) Think 10x. When excellence is expected, the goal is to improve something by 10 times rather than by 10%. Thinking big has paid off well for these innovators, so let’s agree it doesn’t pay to think small or allow fear to get in our way. C) Prototype. When it comes to details, Googlers find that it’s easy to fake it, so when possible, they like to create something they can hold in their hands. Getting the prototype to a commercially viable market is the key and achieves the revenues to validate the idea. Measuring our results and pivoting along the way is how we get to overall success. So, who currently is pivoting toward iteratively better ROI and how are they doing it?
4) The Bridge from Creativity to ROI
PWC’s Strategy Practice would agree that innovative ROI should get iteratively better and is best done through analytics and modeling. Their metric called ROI2, is a method that helps corporations balance innovation project portfolios into an overarching strategy. They not only assign values to a particular project based on the overall strategy, but on incremental revenue, risk profile and ROI2. This measures each project's potential against existing innovative outcomes and helps build a portfolio strategy in response.
C-level executives agree that we must measure what matters. This is what keeps us aware, profitable and gaining ground. But to do this well we’ve got to bring courageous innovation to senior management. Leaders must go first and admit that they've made mistakes and continue to slip occasionally on the their journey to success. This posture gives teams permission to choose the E-Ticket ride of creative innovation and dare to embrace the possibilities. It’s also reassuring for management to know that while courage is required, there’s no cliff jumping included. There are guardrails, best practices, data analytics and models to follow - so fear doesn't have to rule our work and lives.
At MiROR Partners we find the best innovative senior executives to insure you win the innovation game. Contact us to learn more at email@example.com.