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Key questions to drive innovation

by | Sep 9, 2021

What are the questions you need to ask if you want to drive innovation in your business? These 12 will get you started…The UK department of innovation defines innovation to include any of the following activities:1. The introduction of a new or significantly improved product (good or service) or process.2. Engagement in innovation projects not yet complete, scaled back, or abandoned.3. New and significantly improved forms of organisation, business structures or practices, and marketing concepts or strategies.4. Investment activities in areas such as internal research and development, training, acquisition of external knowledge or machinery and equipment linked to innovation activities.

But how does your business or organisation define innovation?

Whatever your need for innovation, it can be tough to know where to start. And how to navigate the myriad of different factors involved.

As part of my studies for an MA in creativity, innovation and leadership and working in creativity training with an assortment of companies over the past decade, I’ve compiled a list of key questions to drive innovation that I’ve found helpful for getting the ball rolling and figuring out your innovation strategy.

A starting point for innovationThe question above – how does your business define innovation – is a great jumping-off point for discussions about the kind of innovation you want and need. Is it incremental ideas – or something more radical?

I was reminded of these key questions to drive innovation this week when talking with a potential client who is moving into a new role, where innovation is a key focus. They wanted some guidance on where to begin.With the topic front of mind, I thought I’d share a selection of my key questions for innovation right here. They will help you if are:
  • Responsible for innovation within your company
  • Agency-side – and thinking about how to help clients innovate
  • Trying to keep ahead of your own industry’s competitors
  • An HR Director or Head of L&D who is charged with the delightfully vague: ‘help us find a way to improve our creativity and innovation capabilities’
  • These questions can help you to understand the future needs of the business in terms of creativity and innovation, and assess where you are now in relation to that goal.

    Key questions to drive innovation for the leadership team – assessing need & motivation

    1/ What do you want/need more innovation for?

    2/ How important is innovation to the future of your team/business/group? 

    3/ Why is it important? What needs to change?

    4/ Do you have a current process? A plan? A team? A budget? An ideas pipeline? A way to evaluate your ideas and experiments?

    5/ What do you think needs to happen to ensure that you stay ahead on this issue?

    6/ Who will lead the charge for creativity and innovation (ideas & action) in your business? How will it be assessed?

    7/ What impact would there be if you don’t do anything about this issue?

    Questions for assessing your current innovation capability

    For a group/team – or organisation-wide.

    1/ Do you think that you have a shared understanding of creativity and innovation?

    2/ What percentage of your ideas pipeline goes on to become an innovation?

    3/ What do you currently do to support creativity and innovation at x?

    4/ What inhibits creativity around here?

    5/ What stifles creativity around here? Do you use any creativity tools or processes? 

    To summarise, these questions are not, of course, exhaustive (there are many more we use), but what they can do is help ‘flush out’ what the organisation needs – and its current preparedness and capability for innovation. It can help to establish whether there really is an appetite for it. 

    “Some skeptics insist that innovation is expensive. In the long run, innovation is cheap. Mediocrity is expensive.” Tom Kelley, IDEO

    Let me know what your discovery questions are on this topic! And check out our Creative Leadership Course if innovation is in your job description and you need a little help.

    Don’t let your organization’s creative potential go untapped. Join our small, residential creative leaders programme to up your creative confidence and learn how to lead a culture of creativity underpinned by well-researched principles and methods. Find out more here.