Different organizations have different approaches to innovation, from actively discouraging it to paying lip service to it to genuinely embracing it.
One problem with innovation in the nonprofit sector is that it can be difficult to evaluate, often torn between financial results and program-related outcomes.
In their book The Charismatic Organization, Shirley Sagawa and Deborah Jospin maintain that organizations committed to innovation should do six key things:
- Empower all levels and parts of the organization. Valuing everyone in the organization, from the volunteer answering the telephone to the chair of the board is a key quality.
- Seek ideas from a broad range of sources. Strong bridging capital requires an organization to reach beyond a tight inner circle.
- Problem-solve. Research into the major unsolved challenges impeding the achievement of an organization’s mission could well inspire a creative search for solutions.
- Nurture the new. An organization might be bursting with new ideas, but how those ideas are treated determines whether the innovation cycle is functioning. They suggest the SUN approach to new ideas: Suspend judgment; Understand the idea better by asking questions and seeing the concept from the author’s point of view; Nurture the concept by brainstorming together to take the idea to the next level.
- Test promising ideas. It is important to test new ideas fairly and thoroughly.
- Have the capacity to implement change consistently. Once an innovation has been tested and its value confirmed, its broader implementation is warranted.
courtesy The NonProfit Times