There are many organisations these days that pay lip service to the idea of innovation. However, it is not sufficient to say that you want innovation and then do nothing about it.
A lot of organisations have told me that they already have too many new ideas. You cannot have too many ideas. You simply pick the best ones.
Too many businesses still believe that they cannot do anything about creativity. There is the misconception that you have people who are creative and people who are not creative, and you just have to hope and wait for the creative people to have new ideas. This is a very old-fashioned view.
You can teach, learn and practise the deliberate and formal skills of lateral thinking in as deliberate a manner as mathematics. It is a fallacy that creativity is just a natural talent.
Brainstorming is not enough. Using one of the formal tools of lateral thinking, a group of workshops generated 21,000 ideas for a steel company in one afternoon. In fact, the company took nine months to sort through all the ideas generated. This is much more than brainstorming can do for you.
The first thing to do is to give someone senior the responsibility of doing something about innovation. This person has to report periodically on what he or she has done.
The next thing to do is to make the senior staff in the organisation aware of the importance of creativity and innovation, and what can be done about it. You could do this in the form of a lecture or seminar.
You need to put some structure in place to encourage, channel and examine new ideas and innovation. Eventually, you could set up a Centre for Innovation and Creativity.
A sufficient group of people need to be trained formally in the deliberate creative methods of lateral thinking, using certified instructors, and so on. There is no value in just messing around.
The chief executive must at all times emphasise the importance of creativity and innovation to the organisation and also indicate to people that new thinking will be noticed, rewarded and acted upon. Expectations need to be set.
A formal Creative Hit List could be constructed and made available to all. This is a focus list of areas where new ideas are needed. Employees at all levels should be invited to have ideas around these listed areas. Creativity and innovation are the responsibility of everyone.