How to encourage innovation

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I once sat in a committee whose job was to come up with great and innovative ideas for the organization. Very few ideas came to the table. Some good ones were proposed but they were shot down with criticism or died due to lack on enthusiasm. The ideas which were put forward by the committee were compromises and safe bets. Nothing revolutionary and nothing out of the ordinary.

Thanks to my experience with this committee, I began searching the Internet with a mission to find 10 great ideas which resulted from a committee of individuals. I failed to find a single one. Can you think of one which resulted from a committee or a brainstorming session? Great ideas come to individual minds. By definition, most great ideas are radically different from the norm and most people fail to appreciate their value. If great ideas weren't so radically different, many of us would already have had those ideas and it probably would be common sense for many of us. Another human characteristic that blocks innovation is that most of us tend to resist change. Thus a committee will most likely kill or discourage a great idea instead of nurturing and encouraging it.

The consensus is usually the lowest common denominator. It is more likely to be something most people can agree on but it is not likely to be something radically new, revolutionary or great. No wonder, great ideas have to be marketed to us. Someone had to work very hard and invest a lot of money to market the first telephones, automobiles, passenger flights, and smart phones.

Ideas come to individual minds and they are developed by an individual or a small group of dedicated individuals. They are not born in brainstorming sessions or committee of experts who have very different backgrounds and who hold divergent opinions and visions on what is important, great, and useful.

To encourage innovation, corporations should encourage employees to come forward with their ideas and perhaps even plans to implement them. The organization should then evaluate the potential benefits of realizing the idea against the estimated cost of developing the idea. If the idea is not too expensive to develop, can be realized mostly with existing corporate resources, promises benefits above the cost of development, and is in line with corporate goals and strategy, it should get a green light. It is not possible to properly evaluate whether an idea would succeed or fail until it is implemented and put to test in the market. Years ago, who would have thought that bottled water would sell more than coca cola. Common sense tells us that no one will pay for something they can get for free.

Please feel free to publish this article, free of charge, as long as this resource box is visibly published. Copyright Nazim Rahman (c)

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