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4 ways you can make sure your innovation is sustainable

When the pace of change demands more than ever before, how can you ensure that innovation strategies and initiatives are both fast-paced and sustainable?

Did you know that you can predict which cities are innovating the fastest by checking the average walking pace of the city? People have been found to walk the fastest (18 metres in 10.55 seconds) in Singapore, for example, which often rates as the fastest innovating city in the world according to standard innovation measures.

Perhaps we’re feeling that sense of urgency in the race to innovate so strongly that we’re unconsciously picking up our own pace to try to keep up? The average walking pace of the cities that are innovating the fastest has increased by up to 30 per cent over the past few decades, so imagine how much the rates of innovation are increasing!

Certainly most organisations are feeling that the push more forcefully than ever.

Can we keep up with the pace of the race?

Up to 80 per cent of growth comes from innovation and new ideas. But is our desire to get ahead getting to be too much?

Physicist Geoffrey West and his colleagues have compared this rapid growth to physics principles, and they have found that there now needs to be exponential rates of innovation not just to get a head; organisations need to do more merely to stay afloat and avoid collapse. West compares this rate of growth to a clock ticking that keeps ticking faster and faster – which demands ever faster rates of innovation simply to keep up.

The challenge for innovating going forward is that it needs to not only be fast paced, but it also needs to be sustainable for long term survival.

Organisations can keep up with the pace of the race through rapid breakthrough innovations and constantly exploring new opportunities and new horizons. But they also need to look at how they gradually develop and build on existing products and ideas incrementally, using the process of exploitation to ensure longevity.

By effectively combining both functions simultaneously, organisations can become ambidextrous, and can develop the sort of transformational innovation that will be needed to survive into the future.

Beating innovation inertia

So how is it possible to ensure that your innovation strategies and initiatives are both fast-paced and sustainable for transformational innovation?

Four strategies for transforming the way your organisation innovates:

1. Beware of inertia

Continually check the pulse on your innovation program – be proactive.

2. Develop exploration opportunities

Ensure there are opportunities for rapid paced ideas to emerge and be converted to new innovations through a sense of urgency.

3. Develop ‘exploitation’ opportunities

Ensure small scale incremental innovations are continually developed and maintained through patient nurturing.

4. Ensure sustainability through balance

Ensure that both breakthrough innovations and incremental innovations are pursued simultaneously to fuel long term sustainable growth.


These strategies should enable your organisation to both stay ahead of the rapid innovation race and survive over the long term.

Gaia Grant is the co-author of The Innovation Race: How to change a culture to change the game (Wiley August 2016) along with a number of other international bestselling books and resources.

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4 ways you can make sure your innovation is purposeful and sustainable « T-Thoughts Team Building & Leadership Development Articles

[…] Adapted excerpt from The Innovation Race book, and originally published in a similar format as an article online by Human Resoruces Media […]

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