Nothing makes me happier than seeing lightbulbs go on in the audiences I meet when delivering a keynote. As with all things in life, the best things are simple and easy, and make no mistake -- innovation is no different.
Whether you're in the technology sector organizing cloud-based software for enterprise clients or coming up with the next marketing campaign for your local flower shop, the process is the same...and it's all about honesty.
What is innovation, anyway? Change? Foresight? To me, it's simply the reorganization of what you already have right in front of you. See, I'm a big believer that whatever it is you're trying to achieve, the pieces are already in your hands. It's simply up to you to reorganize them into a sequence that makes the most sense.
And yet, what do most organizations do? Most organizations try to "innovate" by simply refining processes, products and services they already perform. That's not nearly elementary enough to create anything new. It's kind of like building a castle out of Lego's, and then asking yourself, how do we make this castle take off? The normal organization's answer is, "we keep changing the castle until it can fly."
The innovative company says, "we break this thing down to its elements and rebuild an airplane."
How many iterations do you think it would take Company A to innovate versus Company B? Company B will have that airplane built in the time it takes for Company A to deconstruct a turret and rework the drawbridge. And that's how companies come to dominate industries, seemingly out of nowhere.
The key is something you learned when you were 3 years old: HONESTY. We all walk around knowing that "honesty is the best policy," and yet how often do we use honesty -- not as a mushy core value, but as a strategic framework to innovate?
Companies that can get honest with themselves -- about what's going on in the industry, what's going on with their teammates, and what's going on with themselves as leaders -- will be ready, willing and able to break that castle down and rebuild with a stronger form for the goals at hand. And lest you think such innovative restructuring is too difficult, too costly or too out of reach, consider this: What is the cost of failing to innovate?
If that doesn't motivate you, consider also that innovation doesn't have to be costly or painful. I've helped boards, executive teams and entrepreneurs use honesty to completely reinvent their model in a matter of hours, implement in a matter of weeks and dominate inside of a couple of months. That's what innovation can do for you and your organization, if only you're brave enough to embrace it.
The next time you're wondering why you're not growing fast enough, attracting the right talent, developing best-in-class products or struggling with your customer service, get honest about what's really going on. If you're willing to be honest, it's only a matter of logic to use that honesty to achieve greatness.