In addition to photography, I also currently lead the multimedia design team at Webster University (among other things). I've been thinking about the word "innovation", and how education stands in great need of it. The question that I've been trying to answer recently is, "How do you create innovation?" Even if you can create it, you still have to budget for it. I've been giving the subject of budgeting for innovation some thought lately.
What is Innovation?
First, it's important to define what an innovation is. An innovation is a useful thing; be it a theory, service, process, or product. The key is that's it's useful to an organization. Without being useful, it's just a really good idea. To be considered an innovation, it needs to be able to put to use.
In looking at the process of innovation, the concept of creativity must be addressed. Creativity precedes innovation. The problem with creativity is that it's messy. It's not always cost-efficient, and probably flies in the face of many of the processes that are already in place. In looking at organizations that innovate, they allow for creativity. They have to. This means that in order to budget for innovation, you need to be willing to budget for creativity. You also need to be willing to foster it with leadership who is in tune with creativity.
There's several ways leadership can address this need to foster and allow creativity. They range from allowing time to work on projects that aren't necessarily immediately applicable, to peer reviews, to portfolio reviews, to fostering a creative community that extends beyond the workplace. Each of these ideas could have their own chapters written about them. The important idea though is that if companies want to budget for innovation, they need to budget for, and foster, creativity.
In looking at where organizations can budget, there are 3 main areas that can be broken down...
Maintenance and Operations are the day to do things that need to be done. There's value in this. This is keeping the machine oiled. This is necessary.
Then there's the Enhancement of Current Systems. While this may sound innovative, it's still maintaining the status quo. This is the idea that if something is working, don't go changing it. It may require updating, but we're not talking about changing much here. This is where organizations start to get lost in innovation. Maybe a manager has something to gain by maintaining a process that they've created. Maybe the organization is afraid of real change so they budget for enhancement claiming innovation.
The third area is separate from the first two. This part is messy, and doesn't always show immediate results, but it leads to innovation. It must be budgeted for and fostered in a way that's good for the organization. The organization also needs to have the right people in place. These people need to be at least willing to explore creativity in a myriad of ways.
Since creativity requires some degree of failure (with learning), it's important to maintain perspective.
Unfortunately, creativity is usually relegated to some fringe project, if it's given any attention at all. I fear the breakdown may typically represent this figure...
Most organization don't budget for innovation by investing in and fostering creativity. If they do, they give it very little thought. For an organization to innovate, they must invest in creativity.
Budgeting for innovation means investing in creativity.
P.S. - When we reflect on our own lives - where, when, and how do we invest in creativity? If we're looking for answers to problems, we need to invest some time in being creative.