On our honeymoon in France, my husband and I visited Monet's garden at Giverny. It's a beautiful French country house, every room in a different monotone palette. Monet loved colour and his studio looked out over the garden. He built a lake, complete with a bridge, and planted his famous gardens, just so that he could paint them.
We understand that an artist needs time and space to be creative. Nobody expected Monet to pop out a masterpiece between meetings. Yet, in so many organisations people are expected to 'be innovative' in and around their usual day jobs, with all its pressures and moment-to-moment decisions. Allowing people time for creative thinking is an important part of an organisation's commitment to innovation. Whether that's time alone for deep reflection, or time together for collaborative problem solving, innovation requires allocated time and dedicated attention.
People's time comes at a cost, which can be particularly challenging if your business model relies on billable hours. Sometimes it's the business model itself that needs innovating. Like financial commitment, your commitment of time should be within your resources. Innovation should not add to the endless pile of work people already have to do. If so, it will become a chore, and the required creativity will be lacking.
How are you making the commitment to time for innovation in your business?
This year's BOLT Asset Management Hackathon brought together professionals from engineering, IT, operations and maintenance to tackle some of our most pressing asset management challenges.
From a smarter way for non-technical people to communicate asset management issues clearly, to the practical interface of asset management and information management, to a bold vision for the future of public transport, the challenges showed the wide scope of asset management in all its fascinating complexity.
Most of the participants had not met each other before the day and I was impressed with the way they worked together on a challenge of common interest to come up with some outstanding and innovative solutions.
Collaborative problem solving in a transdisciplinary environment is what the BOLT Hackathon is all about. Working with others from outside your organisation, industry sector, and professional background, provides an opportunity for learning and growth. It's fantastic to see what teams can come up with when given a safe space to think and collaborate.
Thanks to all participants for your efforts!
It's easy to say that you're innovative. It's easy for companies to have an 'innovation' pillar in their strategic plan, to insert a paragraph on innovation in their annual report, or even to list innovation as one of their values, but what does true commitment to innovation look like?'
At least three types of commitment are required for effective innovation. These are financial commitment, time commitment and cultural commitment.
Part of the perceived risk of innovation is that 'we can't afford it'. There can be a fear that costs will spiral out of control. While the outcomes of specific innovation initiatives are by definition unknowable, the costs can and should be well defined and clearly controlled. A financial commitment to innovation should be clear in the budget, where specific funds have been allocated to innovation initiatives.
Defining your financial commitment is one of the ways that you can reduce risk, by employing the concept of affordable loss. Just like any other budget item, funding for innovation should not be a bottomless pit. Allocate what you can afford and put those funds to best use. Like a bungee rope, this allows you take the plunge while at the same time feeling secure that there's a limit to how far you can fall. Setting budgets limits the downside risk, without restricting the upside opportunities that innovation brings.
A lot can be achieved, even with a small investment. It's the commitment itself, rather than the size of the budget that's important. However, even a small amount of money will be wasted if there isn't also a commitment of time and a cultural commitment by the organisation. I'll talk about these aspects of commitment to innovation in my next two articles.
When I was a young girl, my grandmother had a beautiful rose garden. It was formally laid out, right next to the house that sat in a clearing on a hilltop, surrounded by about five hundred acres of native forest.
My Gran tended her roses carefully. Fertilizing with manure and pruning in winter were all part of keeping the roses in full bloom.
It seems counterintuitive, to cut something back in order to help it grow—but any gardener knows that a good prune is essential to healthy growth. Growth may happen anyway, but it will be slower, messier and more erratic.
Gardening guru Peter Cundall advises that roses are among the toughest of all plants. Even if you ignore them, they’ll continue to flower, but there is no question they do benefit with a good winter prune.
In business, a good prune can also work wonders. This doesn’t mean sacking everyone! Rather, it means reviewing what’s really important in your business and pruning those aspects that don’t contribute to good growth. It’s easy to be busy. It’s easy to generate activity, but is it productive?
Are you growing a beautiful rose bush or a wild thicket of lantana?
What will you prune, and what will you keep?