Is spending more money the key to increasing innovation?

What does innovation look like?

You often hear governments and organisations talking about their ‘innovation budgets’ – the money they have allocated for innovative projects that will take them to new and exciting places. However, despite the best of intentions, many organisations end up wasting a lot of this money without having much to show for it.

Part of the problem lies with not having a clear understanding of what innovation looks like in the first place. Many people see an innovative culture as one that allows them to do lots of new things with unlimited funds, yet the very word ‘budget’ is associated with limitation and caution.

What innovation really means is to find better ways of doing things (whether that be products or processes) which add value to our lives and to do them in a way that makes us stand out from the crowd. Money doesn’t drive innovation, constraint does.

Innovation works best with constraints

Dom Price is a Work Futurist and the Head of R&D at the ground-breaking Australian tech company, Atlassian. As Dom Price discussed in his Getting out of the way of innovation presentation (held as part of Florence Guild’s speaker series, ’The Art of Focus’) innovation works best with constraints. For example, many of the most innovative businesses started with no money, just an idea of what they wanted to achieve, so they looked at how they could capitalise on resources other than money and squeeze the maximum value from the few dollars they had. That is when the real innovation happened.

So, if money itself is not the answer or if your organisation is already well established, how do you tap into that same sort of creative drive?

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution here. For some, it might involve creating constraints around time or human resources. For example, your teams might be restricted to, say, 3 people even though they would normally have 6. What can those 3 people do with the resources they’ve got? The trick is to find the balance between freedom and constraint that works for your organisation at this point in time and to constantly reassess that balance.

In his presentation, Dom shared many thoughts on the nature of successful innovation, including on enhancers and barriers to innovation. A key point he made was that people can be both enhancers and barriers to innovation. Many of us are quick to blame ‘the system’ for placing too many limits on us, yet the system was created by people and it can also be changed by people.

The greatest challenge

Getting the mix of people right is one of the biggest challenges of any organisation. We’re all looking to increase diversity within our organisations, however, many don’t realise that it is not diversity in how we look, but diversity in how we think that pushes us to move forward in new ways.

We also need to acknowledge that creativity exists within everyone, but some of us have not been encouraged to develop it. In many cases, it has been actively discouraged by those around us. So, giving those people the right tools and support to help them build that creativity muscle can be very beneficial (providing they are ready and willing to use it).

Often, we have to learn how to ‘unlearn’ many of the habits and beliefs we’ve held for years. Only then can we can really begin to open up and start experimenting with new ideas and ways of doing things. In particular, we have to develop the belief that it’s ok to make mistakes, but we must use them to learn and to share this learning with others.

In fact, as both individuals and organisations, we have to embrace the need for constant learning and reinvention, even after a burst of innovation. We can’t reach an objective and then just stop or we risk stagnation. As Dom stated:

“The ability to lose the baggage and reinvent, whoever can do that fastest will be the person that not only acquires new knowledge but has the freedom to apply it.”

Will that be you?

About the “Art of Focus”

This episode forms part of our 2018 series narrative, ‘The Art of Focus’ which is based on the premise that, in an information-dense society, our attention resources have become depleted. The series’ speakers will help us identify and explore the areas in our lives where we may need to regain focus, increase our self-awareness and improve how we interact with those around us.

If you’d like to hear more of Dom Price’s thoughts on the nature of innovation and how it can be achieved, tune into his recorded conversation Getting out of the way of innovation, episode 23 of our podcast series ‘The Art of Focus’. You can also keep up to date with conversations with other thought leaders by subscribing to our podcast on iTunes and Stitcher Radio.

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