It was taken aback by a recent insightful conversation that Australia is one of the largest exporters of systems and compliance. It made me ask the question why?

What is it about the way we work that requires us to become so good at building systems and compliance measures. How does this compare with other innovative countries around the world. Our businesses and industries are highly regulated and whilst this is beneficial, what affect does that have on our ability to be agile and more innovative? how much is it holding us back?

If we always require a system and process to guarantee an outcome and consistent result, will we ever take the risk to innovate, to throw caution to the wind.

Startups have had a bad rap of late because of their willingness to ignore the rules, but it is ignoring the rules that has made change happen and allowed its innovation to be adopted quickly.

We have seen business take great measures over the last few years to introduce innovation processes with varying success. Wrapped around it are measures and systems that are designed to focus challenges to meet strategic objectives. Ultimately as more and more systems, processes and compliance measures are introduced the creative thinking gets squeezed out of it. 

 

And presto, we not only produce the same ideas we did before, but we produce them more consistently -  yes the process works - but not as intended.

 

Innovating in a large business will never be easy, there are existing cultures that make innovation difficult, that may talk the talk but can’t walk the walk. They are reliant on systems and processes to manage their staff numbers, improve workflows and guarantee output, their ability to innovate will often be limited and biased by the systems needed to make them function. Many are surprised to find that their suppliers, with less resources and money can innovate better than they can.

 

So can big business innovate?

Yes, but it will require cultural change where rules can be ignored and collaboration can flourish.
 
Being innovative is not easy - It takes bravery, a curious mind, perseverance and an ability to observe and more importantly question and think. Charles Eames (famous for his chairs amongst many other things)  once said to an employee, I can teach you to draw, and paint but I can’t teach you to think.
 
It is these things that an innovation process can’t give you, and that systems and processes make difficult.
 

No permission needed

The need to seek permission is a legacy of highly compliant systems and the point that hope of innovation and creativity begin to fail.
 
So we need a new approach to innovation - where employees don’t need to seek permission;
 
  • to dream,
  • to look out the window so that they can observe customers to understand their problems - for a whole day if necessary,
  • to collaborate, to share ideas,
  • to spend time coming up with crazy ways to solve the problem,
  • to seek a different view from outside their business,
  • to talk to anyone who can help make it happen,
  • to ignore there rules.
 
Innovation processes don’t deal with permission, they certainly don’t teach perseverance, they don’t find entrepreneurs, or teach storytelling techniques, and they don’t guarantee innovation - people do.
 
So as business leaders maybe we need to look at intrepreneurs  or external businesses, that don’t seek permission, to take hold of innovation cultures, mentor people and ignore processes and procedures? 
 
After all they are the ones that are best versed and have the appetite to take risks and ignore the rules to allow innovation to flourish.