How do you create innovation in an organization?
When Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, he did so as part of one of the teams competing for the Orteig Prize: $25,000 to the first pilot to reach Paris from New York City. The prize had a magnifying effect on the investment. Nine teams competed for the prize spending 16x the original prize money, over $400,000 before Lindbergh finally won.
Six people had died before Lindbergh finally won. The day before it is a breakthrough – it is a crazy idea. Within 18 month of his winning the prize, there was an explosion in transcontinental travel. A bold dramatic demonstration creates a marketplace.
What are the 8 “must-haves” it takes to really innovate?
- An audacious vision. People love an audacious vision. They are inspired, their morale will lift, they will organize and work to achieve the near impossible.
- The mindset of “we can”
- A super credible birth. The human mind judges the credibility of plans and ideas constantly. They either view an idea as credible and integrate it, or they dismiss it. You can launch a project with super credibility where the threshold of credibility is exceeded such that an idea is accepted immediately. When Peter Diamandis launched the $10M [rokbox title=”Peter Diamandis X-Prize” text=”X-Prize” size=”425 373″ album=”demo”]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bO947eEfRA[/rokbox] to reach space, he did not have $10M for the prize – but he launched the prize with 20 astronauts, the Lindbergh family, and the head of the FAA. The X-Prize was covered by media across the world – and Peter – ultimately found funding for the prize from the Ansari family.
- Clear, objective goals. As humans we love to measure ourselves, compete, and reach a goal. We love “touch downs.” We don’t measure absolutes. We measure velocity. If you look at the happiness of a lottery winner versus someone who broke their neck one year later, the person who broke their neck are typically happier. Their velocity is steadily upward as they recover their motion.
- Constraints. Constraints drive innovation.
- A Willingness to Fail. If players have to minimize risk, you can only have incremental progress. Innovation is the willingness to fail. There are companies today that have prizes for the best failure. The best failure is the failure from which the most was learned.
- Open Participation. Avoid pre-deciding who is going to win. The winner of the protein folding contest, FoldIt, is an office administrator in London.
- Small Diverse Teams. Large teams have a tendency to avoid risk.
What is an example of creating a prize within an organization following these principles to inspire innovation?
Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems is credited with saying, “No matter what business you are in, most of the smart people work for someone else.” There is a concept of Cognitive Surplus. There is extra cognition all across an organization and the world that can be used to solve problems.
In an organization, you get what you incentivize.
Give five teams of 5 people, $5,000, and 5 weeks, to try 5 different ideas, and back the winning idea.
- By limiting the size of the team to five people, you maximize agility.
- By keeping the funds at $5K – you decrease the perceived risk of failure. In typical projects, project can continue too long due to fear of reputation, humiliation or loss of money (if I fail now, the org will lose all of that money), or lost time (if I fail now, I will lose all of that time).
- By giving a clear timeline you create constraints.
- By creating a competition – people know that they will have to think big to win the prize and beat other teams.
- By the organization backing the idea – the risk of failure is reduced – while the award for winning is immense (reputation etc.)
Author Michael Gillam
Michael Gillam, MD, FACEP, is a medical informaticist, researcher, software architect, health IT strategist and board certified in emergency medicine. Most recently, he was a partner level physician executive and Director of the Microsoft Healthcare Innovation Lab which served as an incubation, technology transfer, and prototyping lab for next generation health informatics technologies. He was one of four physician directors of the team that built and sold the software which became one of Microsoft’s flagship products in healthcare, Microsoft Amalga™. He has served as Chair of Informatics for both the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). Dr. Gillam has directed projects spanning technologies including: natural user interfaces in healthcare; advanced data visualization; biosurveillance; RFID tracking; automated facial image capture; enterprise search in healthcare; unified communications; gesture based interface control; Surface computing; augmented reality; and medical robotics.