SPD Innovation
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10 Practical Steps Towards Innovation

So far, we have discussed a process of innovation and creating the conditions where innovation can take place. In this article, we will be looking at practical things you can start doing right away. If innovation is of particular interest to you, I suggest discussing with SPD Leadership about courses and training available from highly acclaimed international business schools like Cambridge and INSEAD. But for now, here are 10 things you can implement right away.

Budget for Innovation

Innovation must be lead from the top. This includes resourcing. Investment demonstrates that the organisation is serious about moving forward and raises the stakes for the teams involved. So how much should you budget for innovation? Resourcing innovation is simply bargaining for return on investment. There’s no ‘minimum revenue amount’ that you need to allocate. Discuss with your leadership team and arrive at a consensus for your budget.

Designate an Innovation Zone

Not all areas of your organisation may be appropriate for innovation. To use a manufacture analogy: innovating after you have already built the factory will be costly and cause unnecessary disruption. Look for areas or departments in your organisation where innovation can happen, sheltered from the everyday bustle. In most companies, this is usually Research and Development. You may want to establish an exclusive innovation department. Leaders must provide support for experimentation and develop a tolerance to failure. An isolated innovation zone will protect embryonic initiatives from being harmed by the larger and often imposing organisation.

Communicate Clearly

Innovation requires focus. A clear direction is essential for success, and clarity is achieved when everyone is speaking the same language. As a leader, develop your strategic focus for innovation and plan how you will communicate this at various levels of fidelity from big-picture to granular. Apple is a great example. Their big-picture philosophy for the Mac was that ‘the computer is a bicycle for the mind’. Their high-resolution focus was ‘a computer in every home’. Don’t assume that people understand what you mean when you use words like ‘innovation’, ‘culture’, ‘leadership’, and ‘success’. Develop a glossary of terms and make sure that everyone in your organisation is speaking the same language. 

Team Agreements

Every team needs a shared code of conduct. This is a good tool to achieve by-in from all your team members regarding the everyday functioning of the team. This process is usually done over the course of a day where members spend time getting to understand how everyone else shows up to work. Revealing the highlights and pain points for each person as well as key personality traits will help the team craft a set of shared agreements that will ensure each member feels heard and respected. Atlassian has put together a useful guide on how to run this activity. Team agreements also create a level of accountability and they empower team leaders to address unhelpful conduct.

Field Trips 

For relationships to form and team bonding to take place, people need to share a broad range of experience and emotions together. Interpersonal relationships form faster when sharing experiences of frustration, relief, stress and fun. Field trips are perfect opportunities for this, even better if you take public transport. The small frustrations encountered while boarding a flight, and moments of shared happiness at a cafe help people move past formalities to the familiar. As we covered in a previous article, trust is the outcome we are looking to achieve. 

Flight Checks

When working on a project, it’s important to gauge how the team is feeling about the project and their progress. Flight Checks are an activity that you can do at the beginning, middle, and end of a project. The purpose of the activity is to provide an opportunity for each team member to express how they feel about it, their pain points and highlights. Sharing frustrations and joys about the work is important and also gives the team an opportunity to reassess their workflow and remove some of the pain points.


Many of us have experienced brainstorming and know that some of you have had a bad experience with it. The truth is, ideation and selection is a dance of divergence and convergence. It’s takes time to learn how to do the dance and parts of the process can get frustrating. Good facilitation is key to a great session. Workshop can run anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days. They can be used to address parts of the innovation process. Having regular workshops with your team will help them get better and faster at ideation. Miro have also published a guide on how to run virtual workshops using the Miro platform.

Design Sprints

A design sprint is where an organisation brings all of their staff together for 4-5 days to work on a particular problem. They are given a challenge, split up in teams and expected to deliver a testable prototype. Sprints are good team building activities and they are a fast way to generate many solutions to specific challenges within your organisation. Google have provided a solid methodology for design sprints here.

Suggestion Scheme

Set up some sort of collection suggestions scheme. This can be done in a number of ways, public or private – online board, lunch room letterbox, suggestion pin board on an office wall. You will be surprised the things that people are struggling with that leaders are not aware of. Conversely, tapping in to the collective wisdom of your organisation may being to light course-altering suggestions.

Vet Suggestions Using Collaboration

There’s an old saying: ‘Committees is where things go to die.’ Although this might be true in certain organisational cultures, the reality is that collaboration is key to isolating and validating great ideas. Assign a team of 6-10 people from across your organisation (various leadership levels and skill sets) that can assess suggestions, develop these into implementable prototypes/experiments and report to management.

I’m sure as you read the above, you may have note that some of these will only work in an environment of psychological safety where all team members feel and share trust and respect. Work on this first. Put people first. Celebrate taking initiative, even when you might not like the idea. Let me process (research, collaborative vetting) decide the value of the suggestion. Every idea, suggestion, or contribution has value. A bad idea might bring to light one or two elements with can be developed into a real-world solution. This takes courage, a tolerance for progressive failure, and valuing your team members every step of the way.

If you require any assistance implementing some of these practical tools for innovation into your team, please reach out. The SPD Innovation team is here to help you get started. Register bellow for monthly news (promise we wont spam) or connect with us via the contact page. Looking forward to working with you.

Maddy Voinea – Ministry Innovations & Marketing Leader, Ministry & Strategy Team | South Pacific Division

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