Nurture Innovation

Take the good and make it better.  Making something more efficient rarely makes it better.  Efficiency usually makes the accounting office and board finance committee happy because it is less expensive.  However, having a highly-efficient process contributes nothing to sustainability.

Making a process more effective just keeps the process on pace with the rapidly changing world.  Keeping pace maintains sustainability rather than increases it.  Being a leading organization means having leading processes, which ensures increasing sustainability.

Nurturing constant innovation is the way to have a leading process.  Part of the nurturing process is to encourage new ideas, risk taking, and experimentation.  Another part of the nurturing process is raising awareness about how the process works and its potential shortcomings.  Awareness is necessary to catalyze the innovation process.  The innovator (team or individual) must be aware of how thing could work, what the benefits are from making a change, who will benefit, how the concept will connect to internal and external processes, and what might be possible. Interdisciplinary thinking must also be facilitated.  Encouraging people to look for ways to connect two previously unconnected or weakly connected ideas or activities will foster innovation, too.  It is  important to nurture the desire for constant improvement (good enough is never good enough).

Creating a diverse environment is also important for innovation.  The innovation team needs to be surrounded by and given access to broad diversity.  This includes people who are outside of the targeted user or benefit communities.  As an example, durability is usually a higher priority for engineers than for artists.  Asking an engineer to evaluate a product specifically designed for artists might uncover durability issues that would go unnoticed until after the artists began to use it.

Next Step:

Use innovation to create exceptional services for your clients

Give your staff the courage to fail

Demand something better than incremental improvement

Create an environment that nurtures a culture of innovation

Every nonprofit can be innovative but only after a period of trial and error.  With experience, innovation becomes easier and less risky.  The primary inhibitors of innovation are fear of failure, an unsupportive leadership structure, and an emphasis on procedures and processes rather than growth, achievement, and service to others.

Nonprofit leaders decide how innovative, sustainable, and valuable their nonprofits’ services will be.

Take It Further:

Hire people who are innovative, risk accepting, and optimistic

Reward change agents


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