Innovation Isn’t So Hard After All

August 1, 2019
Michelle Histand
Michelle Histand

What a movie can teach you about innovation in your organization.

As businesses strive to innovate, be it through strategic initiatives or formal innovation teams, it’s important to define what we mean by innovation. Innovation can be incremental, addressing small improvements, typically to core business. Or it may be adjacent, closer to business as usual but venturing into new territory where the company can likely excel. Last, it can be disruptive, pie-in-the-sky, man-on-the-moon kind of stuff.

As you think about what innovation means to your organization, there are some key principles that are true no matter where you land.

Even if it’s in Oz.

Related article: 3 Ways to Make Healthcare More Innovative

Not to trivialize what goes into true innovation, but in a sense, all you need to know about innovation can be learned from The Wizard of Oz. To start, innovation is a journey. In business, it’s generally not a eureka moment of inspiration. Rather, it’s often about putting in the time and following a well-designed path to get where you’re trying to go. Sound familiar? Then follow the yellow brick road to learn more.

  • A farm girl, a scarecrow, a lion, and a tin man? Innovation takes a diverse team. You need people with different perspectives and backgrounds to create something fantastic, no matter what you’re going for. Homogenous teams come up with homogenous ideas.

  • The tin man needed a heart-and you need empathy. Building on an existing process or developing a new one requires a strong understanding of the people you’re building for.

  • The scarecrow was looking for a brain-and you should be looking for creative thinking. Give explicit permission for people throughout your organization to think about things outside of their everyday jobs.

You know where this is going by now, right?

  • Just like the lion, courage is a critical part of innovation. After being shut down for years in corporate settings, people need to feel like they can share their ideas and try new things while being supported.

  • You’ll have detractors and naysayers along the way. Cue the Wicked Witch and her flying monkeys! Along with your wizards, you must find your champions-Glinda the Good Witch and the people who will support your efforts throughout the organization.

  • Expect setbacks and embrace failures. Remember when they make it all the way to Emerald City, only to be told they have to go back for the witch’s broom? You’ll have brooms along your path, but don’t get discouraged.

  • Know your innovation imperative. What’s driving you to innovate and keeping you focused where you need to be? For Dorothy, it was Toto and Auntie Em. Who’s yours?

Maybe you’ve been on your innovation journey for quite some time and it’s a good time to stop and take a rest (beware poppy fields) as you evaluate what’s next. Maybe you’re just starting, and you don’t want to overthink it. Or maybe you just need to connect with others who are going through a similar journey.

Michelle Histand is director of innovation at Independence Blue Cross, one of the organizations hosting an innovation festival, called B. PHL, October 15-17 in Philadelphia. The event will feature three days of talks, workshops, exhibits, and more-focused on all industries and cross-disciplinary innovation. Oh my!