This piece in the Stanford Social Innovation Review is a useful guide to innovation in any organisation, not just non-profits. Although the graphic only fits 4 of the areas (the other two are ‘Porous Boundaries’ and ‘Idea Pathways’) they are all important components of the system, process and culture needed to create new solutions especially in delivering across public services. Working with Deloitte, in a Combined Authority, with large non-profits in the USA, smaller non-profits in the UK and growing a business over 20 years it was interesting to compare how these 6 areas manifested in different organisations when I read this!
There were three areas that I always focused on that were particularly important to make this successful. The first was being ‘inquisitive and outward looking’ – I always encouraged teams to be interested and listen to ideas from outside the organisation to learn and be willing to challenge and improve the services they provided. A combination of ‘curious culture’ and porous boundaries’ referenced in the article. The second was building eclectic teams who brought a very wide range of different skills, ideas and capabilities together – the ‘diverse teams’ point. And finally, ‘catalytic leadership’ – encouraging and supporting your teams to tackle important problems – both within the business as well as service gaps and challenges in the market.
It is also important to acknowledge that innovation requires iteration! New approaches are unlikely to work first time and I admire commissioners, operators and investors who are prepared to create the environment to allow innovation within their organisations, markets and contracts.