It’s a reality that many charitable organisations operate in a competitive environment.
Pressure exists to expand into new audiences and deepen relationships with beneficiaries, as well as keeping up with the times and exploring new opportunities. There’s a lot of talk about the need for charities to innovate. Indeed, our own Community Fund asks for causes to submit a forward-thinking idea because we believe taking a risk and testing something new, can be a fantastic way to open up new opportunities and lead to a more confident future.
But we understand that innovation can at first feel risky, time consuming or out of reach. It’s often perceived as something only big charities have the freedom, funds and right people to do. In this article, one of Aviva’s Senior Innovation Managers, Richard, aims to highlight some of the common myths that exist about the term innovation to help you think about the word differently.
Myth 1: Innovation is identifying something brand new
Not necessarily. Innovation is about finding a better solution (than exists today), that adds value by meeting a new or unrealised need. It can occur anywhere in the charity e.g. engagement, creative, research, strategy process etc.
Myth 2: Innovation is having a lightbulb moment
Innovation is not just a fresh idea. Ideas, whilst part of the innovation mix, don’t necessarily meet a need or add value alone. Innovation is about borrowing and developing ideas to suit the situation and crucially meet a need and adds value. Innovation involves: iterating, testing, stakeholder buy-in and refinement to allow you to move from concept to delivery.
Myth 3: Innovation is all about using technology
It’s true that technology often enables or accelerates innovation e.g. by allowing easy access to new audiences, scaling processes or removing the need for large numbers of employees. It doesn’t, however, need to be a prerequisite for innovation success. Innovation is a lot wider – it can mean cultural shifts or new ways of working or new beneficiaries. It can be done by one person or a whole organisation.
Myth 4: Innovation is popular.
Humans generally dislike change. Self-preservation makes us conformists and it takes a lot of effort to accept and support something new. Most organisations have an innate ‘immune system’ that kills things that go outside the perceived norm. Recognising this and appreciating when it is happening can help you move forward.
Myth 5: We haven’t got the right minds or people in our organisation to innovate.
You don’t need someone technically minded or a digital guru – what you need are lots of good ideas and you most likely already have the basis of these already available in your organisation. Your employees and volunteers, even your beneficiaries, will have excellent insights into what needs to be done, what could change, what could be tested. The key is prioritising and investing in the most suitable innovations for your organisation and at the right time.
Myth 6: Innovation is done elsewhere.
Whatever your role and whatever your team, you can benefit from at least looking at how you can be more innovative. As a concept, a principle and an approach, it’s there for everyone.
Myth 7: Innovation is expensive and exclusive
Innovation doesn’t need to cost anything. Why not try adopting at least a few techniques, principles or processes to start you off and see what new ideas and benefits it might lead to!
If you’ve found this article interesting, why not also read:
How relevant is innovation for charities?
Innovation doesn’t need to mean expensive