We understand that it takes time for a glassblower or dancer or a writer to develop their craft. They might practice for years or even decades before they are good enough to put their art out into the world. We understand the cycle of trying and failing and learning and trying for artists like these. We celebrate artisans partly because we know that a lot of good hard work goes into developing their craft. Why then are we far less accepting of this idea in business?
Innovation, to me, is a practice. It is not intermittent. It is a hard thing to pull out and dust off when business metrics are declining. Innovation is something that people and organizations do better when they are constantly working on it.
Much like learning a craft the process for innovation is similar: discover problems, invent solutions to those problems, launch solutions, assess the solution’s success ….. and so on. In startup circles there is the term fail fast which pays homage to this idea of innovation as a craft. Figure out how to iterate quickly so you can put the duds, and you know there will be duds, behind you. Move on quickly because if you try enough something is bound to be good.
Innovation is critical to the health of an organization. If innovation scares you, your staff or your culture it is time to get comfortable with it. Start small, build a plan with deadlines in advance for when the work will be done, try, assess and try again this time with something slightly bigger. Innovation is a craft and we need to be okay with the time, effort and risk that a practice like this takes.