How to Create an Innovation Mission Statement

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How to Create an Innovation Mission Statement

Often individuals and organizations tend to get stuck in the mode of talking about innovation and/or trying to understand innovation. The only way to really know innovation is to do innovation, and learn from your mistakes along the way. In this article Harun Asad suggests preparing an Innovation Mission Statement as an initial, action-oriented way to get out of the rhetoric trap. Published: April 26, 2012 | By: Harun Asad

So why Create an Innovation Mission Statement? Before we get to the ‘how’, let me briefly discuss the ‘why’. Your initial reaction might be something like ‘Oh no! Not another mission statement exercise.’ But bear with me and read on for two minutes more and I think you’ll discover that an Innovation Mission Statement can be liberating and help make hard tradeoff decisions in complex situations. Personally, I’m always amazed how often I hear talented, seasoned executives and managers seemingly struggling with questions like the following: • What does innovation even mean?

• Do we need to be more innovative? Why?
• What results are we going to get from innovation?
• We’d like to be more innovative but how do we do that? I say ‘seemingly struggling’ because in my opinion this kind of rhetoric is a trap and a barrier to innovation disguised as a thoughtful, contemplative approach to innovation. There are more than 40,000 books on innovation, and new ones coming out every day. Innovation is around us everywhere – in new technologies, new media, new business processes, new business models, new products and services, and so on. There are dozens of innovation rankings, including more stats than you probably care to know. The innovation habits, processes and outcomes from numerous leading companies are in the news constantly. Spend a week with your favorite business journal or newspaper (digital or print) trying to identify a story about innovation and I can almost guarantee you will find at least one. …how can anyone honestly question the legitimate need for ongoing innovation? In addition, studies and real-world examples abound demonstrating the positive business returns (hard and soft) that result from innovation – not that innovation doesn’t have its fair share of failure but that’s the nature of the beast. What’s more, putting research and case studies aside, isn’t it kind of obvious that the 21st century demands innovation? With constant and rapid technological advancement in every industry, globalization of the workforce, the explosion of information and data, and other big business trends, how can anyone honestly question the legitimate need for ongoing innovation?

Innovation is an Action

Before you sit down to start preparing your Innovation Mission Statement, the first thing to do is change your mindset about innovation. Simply stated, innovation is an action. In my experience, innovation is most successful when it manifests from experimentation, willingness to fail, an emphasis on continuous learning, and a willingness to act in the face of uncertain outcomes. Schlesinger, Kiefer, and Brown capture this notion brilliantly in their recent book Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future (Harvard Business Press, 2012). This is also why many leading business schools house innovation and entrepreneurship together—typically called an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute. Or perhaps you may like the metaphor ‘Innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.’ In a couple of dedicated, focused hours it can be done simply and effectively, and establish a liberating, galvanizing sense of purpose for how to steer your innovation efforts. Related to taking action, a useful approach to get out of the rhetoric trap is to start by preparing an Innovation Mission Statement. This can help to avoid getting stuck or straying too far from your core purpose. In a couple of dedicated, focused hours it can be done simply and...
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