Make Innovation Work – IL / IW / IW

Street SignPreviously, in our blog, I have spoken about the need to innovate to stay ahead of the pack. The “innovation imperative” is crucial to the success of not only large companies, but also small and medium businesses. And yet, innovation is something that small and medium businesses do not spend time and effort on.

The reasons are myriad.  Some believe, innovation is born out of serendipity. Some are of the opinion innovation is something of a bother that needs to be pushed aside and kept away from their daily dashboard. Pushed to react, small and medium business persons can come up with mind boggling reasons for why they do not focus on innovation.

Most small and medium business persons balk at introducing a formal process for innovation in their businesses. For them it means paperwork, bureaucracy, rigidity, breaking down the informal working of their organizational culture…

ankit gupta and partner

Image courtesy Stanford Technology Ventures Program

So it will come as a real surprise that two VERY YOUNG entrepreneurs Akshay Kothari and Ankit Gupta, put forward a very simple and easy to follow process for small and medium businesses to be innovative. And, they should know.

 Alumni of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, the entrepreneurship centre of the famed Stanford University’s School of Engineering, they founded the news gathering app in 2010 and sold it to LinkedIn for $90 million in 2013.

Explaining their process to an audience at the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leadership lectures, they highlighted a very simple process that any small and medium business can use to make innovation a part of its culture. It is a simple process called “I Like…, I Wish…, I Wonder”, an idea, they admit, was borrowed from the Stanford Institute of Design.

Image downloaded from article by Akshay Kothari

To put it in the words of co-founder Kothari, every Friday evening the entire team gets together for about 30 minutes to step back and debrief. These 30 minutes, he says, not only provide a crucial break from the craziness of the business, but also builds the team’s stability and camaraderie.  The simple formula helped them put a structure to the informal debrief process they had, so that all members of their team (including the quieter ones) got an opportunity to air their views.

The concept is simple. The team is made to stand in a circle and discuss the past week, the only restriction being that each person must start his or her statement with “I like…”, “I wish…” or “I wonder…”. Team members are encouraged to keep the statements succinct and to avoid responding till the end of debrief. Lastly, any topic of interest is fair game.

Everyone is encouraged to feed into the team things that they, guess what….

  • ‘Like’ – things that have gone well, recognition for a job well done, highlighting individual contributions and successes
  • ‘Wish’ – things that need improving, developing and changing
  • ‘Wonder‘ – suggestions, questions, ideas, queries, clarification of things from others (particularly the bosses!)

In this process Kothari found that for every few comments, there was one that highlighted a serious issue and pushed the team on the path of creativity and innovation. This allowed employees to “let out small tremors frequently instead of a bigger earthquake every now and then”.

This process also had other ramifications. The open and honest feedback from employees made each team member constantly improve themselves. The biggest breakthrough was the use of this framework in the daily communication process. How you communicate an idea can be more important than the idea itself. The IL / IW / IW framework got the team to communicate positively, consequently leading to less conflict and more productivity.

Does your team debrief regularly. So, what are you waiting for? Apply the above framework and get your business to be innovative.

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