Bringing Innovation to Innovation (In Your Meeting)

Dubbed “Mr. Creativity” by the EconomistJohn Kao shares a few ideas on how to utilize your events to bring innovation to innovation:

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How can your event bring clarity, focus and practicality to your organization’s innovation agenda?

As someone who has worked in the innovation field for some thirty years, I can say with authority that this challenge is daunting. Innovation is one of the most commonly used, yet most poorly understood, words in the management lexicon. It has been stretched to fit a bewildering variety of meanings—design thinking, entrepreneurship, creativity, disruption all come to mind.  And the proliferation of compound terms such as reverse innovation, digital innovation, incremental innovation, frugal innovation only add to the confusion.

To make matters even worse, innovation truly  is complex. It involves the psychology of talented people, interpersonal dynamics and organizational behavior, even societal norms and cultures.

A great place to start is with a keynote on innovation.

What then can be accomplished in an innovation keynote, and how can you reinforce those concepts throughout the rest of your event? Five key deliverables come to mind:

1. Defining innovation: Perhaps most important is creating alignment in your community around a shared definition of innovation. Without this, efforts to put innovation into practice will be piecemeal and fail to achieve their full potential.

After the Keynote: Emphasize the definition on event materials and rally attendees around it through follow-up breakout sessions and workshops.

2. Expanding a sense of what is possible: Equally important is the opportunity to create a shared perception of what is possible, not just in creating an organizational culture, but also through inspiring efforts towards a practical agenda. Moving the discussion from narrowly defined product development stories to a broad array of disciplines and case examples can enrich the understanding of what it means to innovate.

After the Keynote: Consider a public whiteboard to invite attendees to brainstorm.

3. Moving from “getting it” to “getting it done”: So much of what passes for thought leadership and keynote speeches in the innovation field falls under the umbrella of what one might call “getting innovation”—understanding its importance, the consequences of not having an innovation strategy, etc. Few are able to bring a practical perspective that stresses the building of strategically valuable, enduring capabilities for innovation.

After the Keynote: Create strategy sessions in the agenda where teams can address the “what now?”

4. Assessing the toolbox: For those organizations seeking to move beyond homilies on the importance of risk-taking and culture, a successful innovation keynote can provide a perspective on the range of options in the innovation toolbox and what it takes to design a successful action plan for innovation.

After the Keynote: Ask the speaker to provide a handout or follow-up content attendees can refer back to when they return to their workplace.

5. Designing a stewardship agenda: Innovation doesn’t happen by itself or via leadership fiat. It requires a considered approach—deciding who is responsible (and accountable) for innovation, what their authorities are, what the resource base is, relevant metrics, expectations and more.  Innovation lives or dies by the quality of stewardship applied to it.

After the Keynote: When your organization’s innovation strategy is finalized, communicate and tend to its success through consistent follow-up after the event. 

Dubbed “Mr. Creativity” and “a serial innovator” by The Economist, John Kao is a leading authority on innovation, business creativity, organizational transformation and emerging technologies. John has been a trusted advisor to senior leaders of both public and private sector organizations. He has advised the governments of Finland and Singapore on their innovation strategies as well as leading firms such as Nike, Intel, and BASF.

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