Trust is Everything in Innovation

Trust is Everything in InnovationHow relevant is Trust in enterprise innovation? Let’s piece together an answer with the help of some field research.

Three of five executives at this year’s Front End of Innovation Summit in Boston shared one reason for attending: “I am looking for ways to create a culture of innovation…we are just not there yet!”

Eli Lilly’s CEO John Lechleiter recently set forth a compelling case for why America’s innovation gap is broadening, and some powerful ideas about how to address the Gap. Among the key reasons for “the gap”: extreme innovation entails risk-taking, mid-to-long term experimentation periods, and knowledge sharing.

In recent research where I conducted a survey on the role of Trust in innovation, more than 72% of respondents rated “trust issues” as a major obstacle to the free flow of intellectual capital at their organizations. In other words, for numerous reasons from compensation and job security to scarcity thinking and retribution, some of our best innovators have decided to check out rather than pitch in.

What’s going on here?

Just as Nation’s hunker down during global crises, so do many of us choose to hoard our ideas, projects and power when the personal going gets tough.

We need more CEOs like John Lechleiter who recognize that the enemy is us! To innovate, organizations require an innovation-hospitable ecosystem with Trust at its core. Here are five reasons why making your organization Trust Rich is the essential key to incremental or radical innovation:

  1. Trust drives sharing: in an environment where innovation players are sure that their contributions will be appreciated or acknowledged, more sharing occurs….by more diverse actors
  2. Trust fuels access: because many of the very best ideas in any organization reside on PC drives (indeed, KM has yet to eradicate the shared or personal idea repository) or in our heads, trust is the most effective, least cost way to access potentially valuable contributions
  3. Trust yields abundance: all of us in the innovation world know that abundance/quantity of the “right” stuff multiplies the probability of innovation success
  4. Trust makes ‘accidents’ frequent: the possibilities for radical Aha! innovation are limitless in a safe, criticism-free environment based on trust…leading to more collaborative efforts to solve problems in novel ways
  5. Trust equals speed: when you trust your team-mates (how many hours does it take for these two fellas above to agree on their next move???), speed is available….frankly, it is your competitive edge.

I continue to believe that an organization’s capacity to breed, leverage, if not protect Trust, is the single most important success factor for enterprise innovation.

Where is your organization on the Trust issue, on its capacity to foment and protect Trust, for the benefit of productive innovation initiatives?

The future belongs to those enterprises that have discarded the scarcity thinking models of yesterday. The future winners listen to each other, share with each other, collaborate with each other, and dramatically accelerate their organic capacity to innovate products, services and business models. This is courageous stuff. But then again, perhaps we should expect more from our CEOs.

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Luis SolisLuis Solis is President of Imaginatik, a global innovation software and consulting partner to such global 1,000 brands as NYSE, Boeing, Pfizer, John Deere and Chevron. For 25 years he has been an executive, board member, investor and advisor in technology and operating companies leading their industries.

Luis Solis




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  1. Canada Trusted on November 13, 2011 at 3:57 am

    You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.

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