Luke Williams, Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship

Stern School of Business, New York University

People outlive ideas. We need to be looking at challenging and changing commonly held practices and beliefs every 5 to 7 years. This fact raises the point of how relevant a 10 year masterplan is in delivering real, long term value to the business, its clients and stakeholders.

With only 57% of businesses having an innovation plan it would indicate that while there is work to be done, opportunities abound if we get the mindset and approach right.

Changing how we see ideas

Ideas matter and implementation is the commodity. We must design teams that are committed to creating ideas to replace ideas.

Ideas re-arrange things, giving them more value and, ultimately, we have a choice to change the ingredients to get different outcomes.

Skill and talent must be a focus for organisations and their people, prioritising the ability to re-arrange ideas to find new recipes.

“Economic growth springs from better recipes, not just from more cooking.”

Paul Romar, NYU Stern, Nobel in Economics. 

To be able to create an ever stream of ideas to explore will require us to challenge the conceptual limitations that shape and design the ideas we have and how we see these ideas.

This, ultimately, requires decision-makers to free resources to achieve better outcomes with the ingredients available to the business.

We need to review all aspects of the business and respect the fact that tech is just one ingredient and focusing on tech alone won’t extract the greatest value.

Be aware of complacency and arrogance.

Most people think disruption will not happen to them.

You only come from your frame of reference, so, often you believe that you are doing best practice. The need to trial this belief is key to responding to the future.

Much time is spent trying to convince other people of your ideas; be mindful of where you are placing money, time and headspace. The risk is that you will overestimate the amount of time you have to plan and execute opportunities.

Think about the future, what you have now and what ideas you are able to create and execute with the talent and expertise you can access internally and externally.

Unfortunately, organisations never justify change until they are forced. Ultimately, this is a high-risk approach.

When you are designing ideas it is important to do the work of urgency without the crisis.

To remain in the game you need to create ‘Thinking Time’.
  • People need to give more focus to the right ingredients which means they must move beyond being “busy”. 
  • Being “busy” puts you at risk of missing what is obvious and ignoring what really matters. 
  • Leaders must be brave enough to make the commitment to allowing their teams time to stop, reflect and think.
  • 3M dedicates 15% of all employee time to thinking. Take time out to ask how well your business compares and if it is falling short; why is this?
  • It is likely to come back to what the business sees as high value, but this raises the questions as to whether this high value has true meaning and relevance in 2019 and beyond.
Invest in ideas 

Build a portfolio of ongoing ideas that are seen as an investment across all roles and departments.

As you consider the process and system for making this a part of the daily operations and business DNA, be courageous enough to ask yourself and those around you the following:

  1. What is the currency in which you determine what is high value in terms of new ideas?
  2. How can you build the innovation capital throughout the team and organisation?
  3. What are the key roadblocks and organisational risks to building innovation capital across all levels, not just senior leadership?