Recently I was thinking back to the times I felt liberated at work. It’s that feeling you get when you come up with an idea and try it out, and it actually makes a difference. Feels pretty good when it happens, right?

I call them the “Hell Yes” moments. After experiencing them on different projects, I’ve been chasing that liberated feeling whenever the opportunity arises. In my experience, the Hell Yes moments follow a typical pattern:

  • Identify a problem
  • Come up with an approach to solving it
  • Refine the approach with someone you trust
  • Run with the idea, prove it out, and learn things along the way
  • Deliver results that Daft Punk will approve of: better, faster, stronger, or other outcomes
  • Share the results; win accolades for you and your team
  • Bask in the “Hell Yes” moment that just happened thanks to your innovation

If you know about the Lean Startup school of thought, this pattern is familiar. It’s a form of continuous innovation based on rapid experimentation cycles with a laser-like focus on deep understanding of a problem.

There are times when we can innovate freely, analyze problems, come up with solutions without constraints, and bounce ideas around with people we trust. When I’ve had those opportunities, I was able to innovate and deliver results that made an impact, such as:

  • Faster software releases
  • Quick turnaround times on game-changing features
  • Brand new ways of visualizing data
  • New ways of defining feature requirements

And now a question:  Why do these “Hell Yes” moments happen so rarely in most organizations?

To actually get these types of results, organizations need to create the right conditions for innovation. When the conditions are right, the probability of a “Hell Yes” moment is much higher.

Here are what I consider to be the 4 most important prerequisites for innovation. When these are in place, the conditions are ripe for getting to many “Hell Yes” moments:

1. Time

Not months, but days and weeks – just enough to rapidly break down the problem, look at it from different perspectives, and refine understanding

2. Collaboration

Open and trust-based engagement with people from different disciplines

3. Resources

Support from decision-makers to commit resources to the innovation process – people, tools, space, etc.

4. Patience

A tolerance for failure, combined with a willingness to learn from it

In a lot of organizations, the conditions are less than favorable for innovation. There’s little time, not enough collaboration, near zero resources, and no tolerance for failure. In fact, the norm in most places is innovation-killing: “Hell No” instead of Hell Yes.

Does your organization have innovation in its DNA, the genetic predisposition to collaborate and learn from failure? Unless your organization thrives on experimentation and continuous innovation, chances are it looks like this:

Chief_idea_killer_MarketoonistNo doubt you’ve seen this already (from Marketoonist)

To get to those rare breakthroughs and experience more “Hell Yes” moments, innovation needs to thrive and flourish. It needs an environment where collaboration and learning can freely happen.

Innovation does lead to liberation – and when it works, it can change the game.