“I believe that only those companies who are capable of reinventing themselves and their industry in a profound way will be around a decade hence.” - Gary Hamel

These days it seems every company wants to be “innovative”, but while many organisations have included creativity in their core values or have innovation as a KPI, very few are truly innovative. Our current interest in Innovation itself is an admission that more-of-the-same strategies are failing world-wide. Organisations are desperate to innovate: redesign products and processes, services and structures. Very few institutions however, can release the creative juices of their workforce. Compliance-based, boss-focused cultures are virtually incapable of capitalising on the natural abilities of people to play, to experiment, to make things different. So what do these organisations try to do when striving to become ‘more innovative’ and why do they fail to deliver?

Attempt #1: Most traditional companies start with the observation: “We are not being innovative!” and rapidly conclude that their people need to be "trained" in brainstorming and creativity techniques. It is an obvious place to start - we understand "skills", they're concrete, “trainable” and might even be measurable. HR can source “innovation and creativity” courses; skills are a well understood physical, bodily thing. Lack of skills is "fixable".

Attempt #2: When upskilling the workforce fails to deliver instantaneous innovation, we next resort to another tried-and-true methodology – process reengineering. Clearly we need innovation processes and systems! Buying "Ideas Management" software with all the bells and whistles is the next logical step - better than the old suggestion box - but often not much better. People just don't seem to want to give up their ideas, and when they do they are old, impossible or trivial.

Attempt #3: If it's not "skill" perhaps it's "will" - we need to pay people for their ideas! Luckily your "Innovation Toolbox" comes with a rewards and recognition module which can be turned on at the flick of a switch and at minor additional cost. After some brief success, this too fails to generate sustainable innovation.

Has this been your experience so far? Time to try something different - It might not be a "skill" issue (we can't innovate), or a "will" issue (we won't innovate) but a "thrill" issue: we don't innovate - because we're simply not all that excited about working here (you can have my body, but my brains, heart and spirit are mine alone).

We believe that people are innately creative, that it is natural to want to share ideas, work together and improve - but that workplaces and managers must be actively seeking learning and change; that being just good isn't enough; that People have to have the time, space, permission and freedom to experiment and think, free of fear and anxiety. Being able to make non-fatal mistakes and learn from them is vital to innovation.

Build a vibrant, engaging and empowering workplace - a thrilling place to be - and you will get more innovation than you can cope with (and that's another story).