If you want to innovate successfully then you don’t need to increase the number of creative ideas you generate.
You need to learn to evaluate them differently.
Hi, I’m Rachael
I’m a creativity and innovation researcher and business practitioner who helps founders, managers and executives overcome individual and group biases and organisational barriers to get more ‘bang for their buck’ from the creativity already present in their firms.
People come to me with questions like…
- How can I decide which innovative ideas to pursue and which to ditch?
- Why can’t we seem to come up with anything radically different?
- How can I differentiate my new products and services from my competitors?
- What can I do to prevent new entrants disrupting my market?
- How can I create an innovation culture like Google, Amazon, Alibaba … name your business unicorn!
Is this something you’ve been asking too?
I’ve worked with some of the most inventive and creative businesses during my industry career. From starting my career as a graduate management trainee in Tesco in the mid-90s, through to working for Rolls-Royce on a £320m innovation project in 2012, I’ve been blessed to work with incredibly smart and savvy people. But time and time again, I encountered situations where an organisation asked employees for more creative ideas, yet when employees made suggestions they were frequently rejected and not taken forward. I couldn’t understand why there was such a disconnection between the two.
Maybe you are experiencing the same situation. You’ve got lots of creative people, but you’re puzzled why that’s not being transformed into innovation.
The same question puzzled me too.
When I got the opportunity to study for my PhD in 2014, I knew I wanted to research a topic which was not only academically rigourous but was of importance to practitioners in industry. I began to study how creative ideas were evaluated and how individual and social biases and structural and systemic barriers prevented ideas from becoming innovation.
What I uncovered is that many companies think they need more ideas. With quantity comes quality, right? But while there are more ideas going into the pipeline at the front end, there are only so many projects which can be resourced and funded. Which is why every organisation I’ve encountered has a method for deciding which ideas to take forward, whether it’s as simple as manager’s intuition, or a complex business case comparison or another evaluation process.
The problem is most evaluation methods recreate and reproduce what you’re already doing. It’s not giving you the innovative result you desire. That’s because humans don’t tend to like novelty and change. It’s wired into our physiology and social interactions. And our workplace cultures encourage and value certainty and success over the unpredictability and false starts which often come with innovation.
If you are going to increase innovation then you need to evaluate ideas differently.
Do you struggle to transform employee ideas into innovation?
If you’ve been searching for ways to transform employee ideas into an increase in your innovation outcomes, I invite you to explore my programmes and the different ways I work with businesses here.
Dr Rachael Lamb is Assistant Professor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Haydn Green Institute, University of Nottingham. Her expertise lies in the intersection of creativity and innovation and her research centres on addressing how organisations can create and maintain an entrepreneurial culture.
Rachael teaches Entrepreneurial Creativity and Innovation Management on the Business School’s MBA and MSc programmes and teaches Corporate Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management on the Undergraduate programme.
Prior to working in Higher Education, Rachael worked in industry for 20 years, supporting executive leaders in managing change and innovation. She has worked with many high profile organisations including the UK National Health Service, Rolls-Royce, Waitrose, National Grid and the Royal Bank of Scotland and has consulted with SMEs on utilising creativity for business growth funded by the European Regional Development Fund.