Written by: Ross Thornley, CEO and Co-founder, LEAPS

Innovation isn’t an event. Many organizations set up ‘innovation labs’, places with bean bags, and think that will solve all of their future sustainability problems.

But really, innovation is a process and it’s about having the right mindset to be able to carry yourself and your business through that process. You want small, committed teams that are supported in the right way so that they can make profound changes.

There’s no point having an incredible team of innovators and putting obstacles in their path every step of the way, whether those obstacles are internal policies and procedures, or whether they’re tangible resource deficits like money.

Why Most Businesses Don’t Innovate

Money is the reason a lot of business fail to innovate. Experimentation costs time and time is money, so why should you be investing in new products (that might fail) when you have a perfectly good product right here you know is selling?

There’s something in the innovation business that’s talked about a lot, and that’s ‘Three Horizon Thinking’. Three Horizon Thinking looks at the three ways in which we try and expand and grow our businesses.

The first horizon is where most businesses get to, and most businesses don’t leave.

When we first start trying to grow our business, we look at extending the core of what we do, or we try and make the core of what we do cheaper, so we can make more money.

That means you start analyzing your business and looking at productivity, efficiency, workflows and try and generate income from your product (or service) with an extended timeline.

You see this all the time in business through something as simple as a retargeting campaign: hey, they’ve bought from us before, so let’s get them to buy again! This kind of innovation and development is at the first horizon.

How to Push Your Business Past the First Horizon

The second horizon comes from experimentation and exploration and this gets ignored because it costs you time and money: two of the things you’ve been trying to get a handle on with horizon one.

If you want to cut your costs by making yourself (or your team) more productive, you don’t want to spend man-hours on people thinking about solutions to problems you don’t have yet. This is why some people never get to this horizon, and always stay in horizon one.

In fact, most organizations struggle so much on the second horizon they don’t even reach the third, which involves imagination.

This is visionary thinking, people getting creative and dreaming up their own visions of the future. They think that this “tomorrow” will never come, and they’re much better off just focussing on the here and now.

The truth is tomorrow is already here. With exponential technologies we have today, new products from Horizon Two and Horizon Three can come into reality much faster. That’s why we see so much disruption when a new start-up enters the scene; they’re bringing this innovation into being.

The problem is, people see Horizon Two and Horizon Three as ‘blue sky thinking’ – something that won’t deliver a return on investment quickly enough in order to be worth the investment.

What these businesses don’t realize is that without Horizon Two and Horizon Three, they will never unlock their full potential.

You Can Engage in Rapid Experimentation Without Spending Huge Amounts of Money

So how do you engage in rapid experimentation without investing huge amounts of time and money into it?

Simple: you condense the process that takes most companies years into just five days. And you start with one simple step: changing your mindset from a Horizon One, protective mindset, into a Horizon Two and Three innovating mindset.

This means you need to start thinking differently. Not just creatively, but radically different. You need to change your mindset from an attitude of ‘can’t’, into an attitude of ‘can’.

People think bringing in young, twenty-something interns will inject innovation into their business. They don’t innovate because they’re twenty-something, it’s because they haven’t been told what your business can’t do and are only thinking about the things the business could do.

What Your Business Can Do Today

So outline your business challenge. Outline what you are going to experiment on and what you’re going to achieve, and make this as big as possible.

Don’t limit yourself to anything at this stage. How do you think Elon Musk is getting people to the moon? It wasn’t by looking at rocket ships and thinking “oh, well, civilians can’t travel on those, so I better put this idea to bed.”

No. It was about turning the question on its head and saying: “Okay, so civilians can’t travel to Mars the same way the NASA astronauts do. So how can I get them there?”

Start with this and you’re already well on your way to not only future-proofing your business but making sure your business is one of the pioneers carving out that future.

About Ross
Ross Thornley is LEAPS’ CEO and co-founder. He is a visionary and a strategist when it comes to business. His company, LEAPS is based on the philosophy that there’s a direct relationship between the success of people and the success of a business. In order to maximize the potential of your business, you have to maximize the potential of your people. LEAPS synthesizes, decodes and brings to life the most recent and relevant understandings about human behaviour, neuropsychology and professional development and applies it directly to businesses to help them grow and flourish in synchronicity with the technological advances happening around us. 

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