by Terry Linhart

Innovation is the new thing. Well, that’s kind of ironic to say, isn’t it, to say that innovation is new?  Look around anywhere today, though, and you can see it’s certainly trendy to talk about innovation. Leaders in all contexts are pushing for ways to stay ahead of the problem waves in the workplace, in nonprofit settings, and in local churches. I’m not sure what has caused the resurgence of interest in innovation (I have my guesses), but it certainly has been helpful to our business!

Most wouldn’t make a connection between “research” and “innovation.” Some think of research as looking backward and academic whereas innovation is seen as maverick and a bit reckless. That shows a gap in our thinking about both terms. Most seminars on innovation start with some assessment exercises to increase understanding about an organization and its values. TA common second step in seminars (we’ve seen and led quite a few!) is to work at finding definitions on what innovation is. A definition helps focus us again on our purpose, allows us to filter out ideas that don’t “fit,” and creates a cohesiveness within which accountability can take place.

The greatest accountability, however, doesn’t come from a board of directors or our boss. No, the greatest accountability is with those we serve – our customers, students, or clients. They are the ones who validate whether there is value or not. When I first started as a professor, I asked my boss how I would be evaluated. He responded, “Students vote with their feet.”

If you provide value, people will show up.  Please note that “building” and “providing value” are two different things. I say this for those of you quoting Field of Dreams in your head as you read this.

A research agency like ours can foster innovation by assessing where you are currently, by guiding your team toward some clear definitions, and then by running ahead to explore the potential for positive validation from those you serve. A small investment upfront can help avert years stuck in a program that isn’t working led by people that shouldn’t have been hired.

Research helps you get ahead of the innovation curve by providing the perspective to see what’s coming so you’re able to stay afloat and not get caught reacting to each wave that comes along. 

Too many organizations are in a desperation cycle, just trying to stay afloat. Admittedly, in those moments, asking and getting answers to the difficult questions will require change, and most organizations are change-adverse. But that’s often what’s necessary in these times where innovation is necessary for survival and success. That’s where an outside group like Arbor Research Group can help. We can help you leverage your resources, spot the trends that influence your success, and set you back on course with your mission.

If you are leading an organization, church, or business and have an innovative question that you think can’t be answered, I’d love to hear it! And I’d love the chance to share how we can help you answer it. It might just be worth exploring if the waves feel like they’re getting bigger.