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Nearly every company’s strategy these days is to grow through innovation, yet many fall short. We all know the standard reasons: innovation is hard, innovation is uncertain or innovation grinds against the gears of the operating organization. I’ve come across surprising and actionable reasons why companies don’t have enough innovation. Here are my top four.
There are some common principles in how innovators approach their work and these are things that anyone can apply. That doesn’t mean everyone can be world famous, but the evidence clearly shows that anyone can be creative and, even if it’s not a major breakthrough, make some contribution to the world.
The question is not whether A.I. will take over our jobs, it will, it’s how soon and how. One thing is for sure: it will happen in phases; first it will create new ones where it will augment our abilities not replace them. Organizations have loads of data about their customers, but that data needs to be cleaned and labeled before it’s fed into an algorithm that will make sense of it all.
People often convince themselves that highly successful individuals who possess a special gift set themselves apart from everyone else. However, the reality is that your ability to have success, however you define it, can be accomplished with a few simple steps.
Forget testing. Forget marketability. Forget strategy. I hear fear, followed by more fear. How can I protect my invention? Will a patent stop my idea from being stolen? Instead of getting emotional, focus on outthinking the competition. If someone wanted to work around you, how would they? In other words, try stealing your invention from yourself.
Should senior management even be involved in innovation work? Well, the short answer is: yes. Based on the research done by McKinsey, 80% of executives consider their current business models to be at risk. As such, the evidence would squarely indicate that for most organizations, change is inevitable and to remain competitive in these turbulent times, innovation is a key capability.
As our technology becomes almost unimaginably powerful, there is growing apprehension and fear that we will be unable to control what we create. The emergence of significant new technologies unleash forces we can’t hope to understand at the outset and struggle to deal with long after. Yet the most significant issues are most likely to be social in nature and those are the ones we desperately need to focus on.
Whenever I get asked by executives about how their companies can innovate they expect me to respond with a prescriptive 3 to 5 point checklist of things that will solve all of their problems. Instead, I respond with a question: what are you doing to impede it?
Measuring innovation is one of the most ambiguous tasks when engaging in innovation management. Because of the complex nature of innovation, finding the right metrics is far from being simple. What makes measuring innovation tricky is that seeing the real impacts of your innovation efforts takes time, and because each business and team is different, not all innovation metrics can be applied to everyone.
In linguistics, there is the concept of deep structure and surface structure. By digging into these, we can gain some insights into the way innovation really works.
Innovation is the mother of necessity, but imagination also drives innovation. There isn’t one single way to get ideas, the most common way is seek out needs and create something that will satisfy those needs. The other way, less talked about, is to scratch your own itch.
The internet was revolutionary in that it democratized the spread of information and ideas at a much faster rate than any other channel. With the increased adoption of computing, we’ve also tracked the rise of “distributed knowledge” databases like Quora or Wikipedia. What is interesting is how powerful these specialized knowledge bases can prove to be in the context of innovation.
An all-star team is making headway with a new initiative that could alter the future of the organization. Then, the results begin taking longer than anticipated to prove, and after too much time spent outside of their comfort zones, the team of high-achieving employees can’t seem to execute within the uncertain environment. How could such a capable team fail?
Every corporate is under attack of dozens, if not hundreds of startups. They are all craving for a piece of the cake. Startups are disrupting corporates, and a lot of corporates are struggling to deal with disruption. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you think about it, corporates have everything it takes to become the disruptor themselves, instead of being disrupted.
When you think of breakthrough innovation, someone like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk often comes to mind. Charismatic and often temperamental, people like these seem to have a knack for creating the next big thing and build great businesses on top of them. Yet what often goes unnoticed is that great entrepreneurs build their empires on the discoveries of others.
Digital advances in the past two decades have enabled more people than ever before to express creative intelligence. Yet apart from the transformation of services powered by mobile apps and the internet, few sectors have seen spectacular surges of innovation—and only 43% of companies have what experts consider a well-defined process for it. In this article the authors present a five-part framework to guide the development and ensure the survival of breakthrough ideas.
Unfortunately, finding the capital to fund your business isn’t the easiest thing in the world. While there are business loans and investors who might be interested in backing your business, the fact is these sources of money are finite. Even if your business is at a point where it makes enough revenue to support itself, even a slight misstep can lead to financial disaster. However, taking an innovative approach can often prevent or reverse a business’s financial woes.
Every organization strives to innovate, but few succeed consistently over time. That’s why so many once dominant companies hit a peak and then decline. Yet IBM, Google and Amazon have been able to buck this trend. While most companies are lucky to come up with one major innovation, these three seem to be accelerating their ability to create impressive new products and services.
Established organizations are highly specialized, they hire optimizers. But hiring for innovation is different, you’re looking for people who are highly curious; explorers. This is culture shock for an established organization because they’re used to optimizing what already works, and a good way to judge that is by looking at someone’s title. None of this reflects ability, because innovation is all about surprises and navigating them.
An important, but often overlooked, aspect of managing innovation efforts is how success and failure are defined and how they are recognized and rewarded. Successful innovation requires dedicated employees willing to take risks, approach challenges differently and from new perspectives, and experiment.
Savvy executives who want their organization to succeed should establish innovation as the core of their daily operations. Ultimately, innovation is about people. Companies that encourage growth and leadership can create a satisfying work environment. Leaders can’t force staff members to innovate. However, in the right environment staff members intuitively act as entrepreneurs and innovation flourishes.
Innovators are looking for a challenge, not a job. Getting the most out of themselves is what drives them. They’re naturally attracted by any challenge that doesn’t have a clear path forward. So rather than evaluate them on predictable results, evaluate them for predictable attitude and flexible approach to overcoming challenges.
With all of the hype around artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), businesses are feeling a lot of pressure to embrace and enthuse these technologies. That’s all well and good, business advisors say, but it puts the cart ahead of the horse. Compounding the hype problem, management of data analytics has escaped from the IT department and is roaming the halls, sweeping up enthusiasts from departments who don’t necessarily understand the thoughtful, reasoned approach that will make the effort a success.
Innovation is about the future, without it, you lose sight of tomorrow. Innovation is an exceptional, exclusive, and realistic idea that separates you from others without a second thought. Innovation can happen anywhere in the organization and its ecosystem. Digital innovation has a broader spectrum, hybrid nature, and deep context. You have to systematically develop the business competency to execute it successfully, and that is something you do not accomplish overnight.
My studies of truly innovative organizations have revealed five common elements (regardless of industry) that define cultures that excel at innovation. They are Empowerment, Honesty, Community, Goals, and Leadership. With the five elements in place, your people will start to generate the innovative growth that you desire, and you’ll be able to solve many more of your customer’s fundamental issues.
Often when powerful technologies are not properly understood, there is a desire to pass new laws or take some action to protect the public interest. That isn’t necessarily a good thing. Ronald Reagan famously quipped, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’”
Before you embark on a game changing initiative, your organization needs to be prepared for it. In a recent article for Harvard Business Review, columnist Scott Kirsner pointed to a survey of 270 corporate leaders that found that the most significant obstacles to innovation are not things like budget, skill sets or CEO support, but politics and culture. Those are pervasive issues and can’t be solved overnight, but they can be overcome.
What happens if more advanced devices achieve a measure of creativity? Creativity isn’t something derived from a mathematical equation. The simplest thing for a child, picking a random number, is something a computer can only fake. A machine capable of coming up not just with unpredictable numbers but also with spontaneous ideas would change everything.
What makes a ‘great’ workplace? Is it possible to transform where you work into where you want to work? Making the grade as a ‘Great Place to Work’ means that your employees believe in the management; they feel respected and fairly treated, ie, they feel a high level of trust. It may sound simple, but building trust at work, especially in a diverse workplace, is complex.
Advanced artificial intelligence algorithms have the ability to take over tasks traditionally reserved for skilled human operators, such as driving a truck or performing a medical diagnosis. What once was the stuff of science fiction is now reality. This technology has made tremendous leaps in the last decade, yet it remains nowhere near its full potential.
Innovation must become your business routine and corporate culture to renew creative energy. Digital innovation has a broader spectrum and the hybrid nature. It comes in the variety of flavors and there are many opportunities in an enterprise to taste it. The companies who get the most from innovation effort have the right ambition, open leadership, and culture quintessential.
How can companies generate more business impact from non-incremental innovation? Typically, companies have little problems in generating ideas for adjacent, radical or even disruptive innovation and in validating the most promising ideas. On the other end of the process, companies have systems to grow material businesses and incrementally improve their performance over time. But for many companies, the transitional Scaling-Up phase in-between is a ‘Valley-Of-Death‘, in which many promising concepts die on their journey from idea to business impact.
The challenges we face today will be fundamentally different because they won’t be solved by humans alone, but through complex human-machine interactions. That will require a new division of labor in which the highest level skills won’t be things like the ability to retain information or manipulate numbers, but to connect and collaborate with other humans.
The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways. The main challenge is you’ve been trained and are experienced in something that is no longer valuable. Which means you have to develop new skills. The other is most people use technology in their day-to-day lives, but are not trained in using it to create better outcomes for others; they’re consumers not creators. This circumstance is the result of both the education system and yourself.
Contrary to the plot of so many sci-fi blockbusters, a self-aware, evil A.I. purposely aiming at pedestrians is just as unlikely as one launching nuclear missiles. Far more mundane errors are likely to trouble advanced A.I. programs, because no matter how perfect and benign the underlying algorithms, and how flawless the computing hardware might be, things can still go very wrong.
Like any tool, AI can be dangerous when misused. It’s the unknown that’s scariest of all, and fear is the biggest threat to technological advances. Expanding knowledge – eliminating the unknown – is the best way to alleviate anxiety and reduce the natural impulse of politicians to ban what they don’t understand. If we wait until the point where we need to plead the case for AI and O.R. to lawmakers, the battle will already have been lost.
The real innovation challenge lies beyond the idea. It lies in a long, hard journey – from imagination to impact. Even the best-managed corporations in the world struggle to execute innovation initiatives. This challenge, which we call the other side of innovation, is widely misunderstood. Some companies conflate this side and the other side, believing it is all the same. Others imagine that executing an innovation initiative can’t be much different than executing day-to-day operations. Both views are wrong. Innovation execution is neither innovation nor execution. It is its own unique beast.
Yes, you read it right. The title of this piece is ‘Great to Good’. I’m going to talk about how, in the 21st Century, we need ‘Goodness’ more than ‘Greatness’ when it comes to innovation. 20th Century was about a few people finding GREAT discoveries. 21st Century is about all of us, using the breakneck speed connectivity that technology provides, to do GOOD things together for a better future. That is my meaning of Great to Good.
The work of innovation – whether you’re doing R&D, creating a breakthrough, pursuing a disruptive strategy or sustaining your core – is not business as usual. It doesn’t work in a straight line, and the more radical the project the more uncertainty there is. This is more evident in domains where lives are at stake; such as medicine.
Our businesses are designed to reject new ideas for all of the right reasons—often it makes no sense to throw sand in the gears of the well-oiled machines we call companies. Yet to remain competitive, to grow revenue in a substantial way, we MUST do better. That starts with recognizing that our best path to organic growth is the creative ideas that are trapped within our companies with little hope of escape.
Everyone is mesmerized by the mystery and magic of innovation and new technologies through AI, Blockchain, IoT, AR/VR, Digital Ecosystems and more. Conversations center around the latest products and services as well as the future impact of a digital life. Yet there is one question that is surprisingly overlooked in many circles - how will leaders and teams innovate and collaborate in a changing business world?
What makes great innovators different is that they succeed where most others fail. They not only come up with new ideas, they find ways to make them work and create value for the rest of us. Even more importantly, they are able to do it consistently, year after year, decade after decade.
Why do established businesses fail? Because they miss the future. And what contributes to them missing the future? Many things, among them is a focus on maintaining the status-quo while avoiding uncertainty.
In a recent seven-year study in which I looked in depth at 50 projects from a range of sectors, including business, health care, and social services, I have seen that another social technology, design thinking, has the potential to do for innovation exactly what TQM did for manufacturing: unleash people’s full creative energies, win their commitment, and radically improve processes.
Groups whose members interacted only intermittently preserved the best of both worlds, rather than succumbing to the worst. These groups had an average quality of solution that was nearly identical to those groups that interacted constantly, yet they preserved enough variation to find some of the best solutions, too.
Usually, when a company finds that a competitor or Startup has found an innovative way of delighting their customers, their reaction is not to jump for joy about how they can also benefit from this new innovation. Their reaction is usually anger. Fear. And the desire to fight to defend what they have. This is a cognitive bias called Loss Aversion.
Business innovation benefits business owners and consumers alike. It helps grow competitive advantage in saturated markets and time and time again have proven to be financially lucrative and socially inspiring. It's crucial to any organization's long-term success and especially hard to scale and maintain.
Being different is not the same as being differentiated. One of my mantras in business and in life is, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Just because they could create a unique experience at the Revel that bucked the design used by every other casino, didn’t mean they should.
You don’t innovate by adding more activities to what you already do. You innovate by eliminating those activities that impede it. Yes, organizations get in their own way just like people do. Innovation has many enemies that act as inhibitors to innovation; the biggest enemy being your existing culture. Simply pointing out these enemies isn’t enough, you have to create mechanisms to combat them. And most of the challenges are related to what management rewards and punishes, which drives people’s behavior.
To create a culture of innovation you have to think and act different. The organizations that fail at innovation focus on neither. Rather, they believe they act – through some version of an innovation program that includes training, workshops and tools – and revert to their old ways when that fails. If they internalize that culture comes first they’d accept that mistakes are an inevitable consequence of doing something new.
In most cases, to run a company, the management has reached a certain age and experience. Investors love a promising start-up, as long as they have an older advisory board. Here’s a perspective that the management team don’t want to hear: innovation happens when people, who can see something happening in the future with crystal clarity, persuade older people so they can believe it too.
Innovation is famously difficult — many projects end up losing money, frustrating employees, and going nowhere. And yet corporations and governments spend billions of dollars annually pursuing innovation. This huge spending would generate more value for businesses and societies if the innovation success rate were just a little higher. Is there a way to increase the success rate without spending more?
It turns out that the word “innovation” is not a Harry Potter-esque magical incantation that, once spoken, renders companies more inventive, creative, and entrepreneurial. The word can be uttered by a CEO speaking to employees or Wall Street analysts. It can be emblazoned on the door to a new innovation center in Silicon Valley. But there are thorny cultural, strategic, political, and budget issues that must be confronted by CEOs and other leaders if they want to ensure that their organizations can be hospitable to — rather than hostile to — new ideas.
Have you ever wondered what it takes to keep teams coming up with breakthrough creative ideas, year after year? One of the secrets is in how often there is an influx of new talent into the team. While it’s tempting to keep successful teams working together on project after project, after a while these teams begin to lose their edge. So if you want to keep your innovation projects successful, it is important that you put in place a system whereby people are moved between projects.
Success does not, in fact, always breed more success, sometimes it breeds failure. That’s why every business needs to innovate. Yet innovation is not, as some would have us believe, just about moving fast and breaking things. It’s about solving the problems you need to create a better future. What most fail to grasp is that a key factor of success is how you source problems, build a pipeline and, ultimately, choose which ones you will work on.
Innovation has many enemies, expertise is one of them. Experts only know the way that got them there. They want to give answers, but innovation requires new questions. These new questions can only be asked by shifting ones perspective, a job outsiders are perfectly positioned for. Outsiders are the ones who change the game because they’re not blinded by expertise; they approach the situation from a new perspective.
Do liberalization policies increase the rate of the innovation output through promoting more openness to diversity of input and opinions? The two arguably most innovative U.S. states, California and Massachusetts, have traditionally been the leaders of social liberalization.
Without realizing it, even well-managed businesses versed in modern management practices can generate an environment that is hostile to innovation. For all of these reasons, large companies need to have a distinct Innovation Unit headed up by a senior executive who ideally reports to the CEO.
The technology world is changing at a very fast pace and new trends keep on emerging every day. The latest product that has received a warm reception and excited many business managers is Artificial Intelligence. Everybody is fascinating about AI because it promises to be an effective way of performing routine tasks and can be applied to the various sectors of the economy.
One of the most contentious aspects of AI is the meaning of 'intelligence.' Forget your preconceived notions of intelligence and your fragile egos, Turing said. If in a set of narrow tasks, a computer can fool you into thinking that it is a human, then it is said to behave intelligently (whether it actually is or not). If it acts, walks, and quacks like a duck, it is safe to consider it a duck—only in the context of those behaviors, of course, and not for eating!
Today digital technology is all the rage because after decades of development it has become incredibly useful. Still, if you look closely, you can already see the contours of its inevitable descent into the mundane. We need to start preparing for a new era of innovation in which different technologies, such as genomics, materials science, and robotics, rise to the fore.
According to a recent study by the Unilever Foundation, there is a strong desire for corporations to improve their innovation capability by working more closely with startups. The report estimates that corporates and startups will form the ultimate partnership, working side by side in the same physical space by 2025, seeking greater proximity for innovation as they evolve to meet changing consumer needs.
According to the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs Report”, creativity and problem solving are listed in the top three skills that employees will need by 2020. Critical problem solving is one of the most important attributes that employers look for in a new hire because no organization is without problems, and every industry will eventually be disrupted.
Innovation is a code word for leadership. Yet innovation is not business as usual; it requires a different mindset: a growth mindset. You have to be comfortable with ambiguity, putting yourself and your organization un uncomfortable positions, having a point of view and pursuing it with conviction.
As I listened to dozens of cutting-edge speakers talk about how they’re doing innovation in most leading corporations today, I can’t help but think we’re still in the pre-Moneyball era. Sure, we’re trying to put structures around our innovation teams and get customer feedback at every step of the way, but at the end of the day this stuff is still largely based on our intuition. “We heard this from the customers, so this is our best guess at what satisfies their needs.” Sometimes we’re right. Usually we’re not.
In our research involving 1,500 companies, we found that firms achieve the most significant performance improvements when humans and machines work together. Through such collaborative intelligence, humans and AI actively enhance each other’s complementary strengths: the leadership, teamwork, creativity, and social skills of the former, and the speed, scalability, and quantitative capabilities of the latter.
As the importance of innovation is starting to become clear for corporate leaders, there are a few myths and bad practices that are also taking hold. For example, I have heard several innovation leaders talk about letting a thousand flowers bloom and espouse the notion that there is no such thing as a bad idea. In my experience, this premise is flawed and can lead to innovation having less impact within our companies. Not all ideas are created equal.
It won’t be the case of robots using operations research algorithms to call all the shots, rendering humans superfluous. Rather, the intelligent enterprise of the future will rely on intelligent augmentation to manage the complexity of the business environment in all aspects of the business. Instead of merely assisting an individual or a small group of individuals in their decision-making ability, the intelligent enterprise uses data analytics to ensure every decision at every level of the organization is guided by science and not intuition. The difference in scale is important.
William Wrigley Jr., the American chewing gum tycoon, once noted that business is built by men who disagree, and that “When two men always agree, one of them is unnecessary.” Indeed, not just in business but also in politics, sports, and the arts, there is no shortage of real-world examples of successful partnerships that were fueled as much by the alignment of ideas as by creative tension or discord.
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Today, as Moore’s Law is slowly petering to an end, we’re on the brink of a new era and, in time, marketing will be transformed once again in ways that are hard to see right now. Over the next decade marketers will need to begin to shift to the post-digital world of computing. This next transformation promises to be at least as revolutionary as the last one.
Evolving technologies have always had a great impact on businesses because of how they can improve the existing process. Certain technologies offer great scope to take your business to the next level because they have the capacity to change the way you do your business.
It hurts to fail. The feeling of defeat can make even the hardest of workers feel worthless. It’s hard to face the reality that your work or dreams won’t live up to your expectations, and giving up might seem like the next step. However, failure teaches important lessons, and though it seems contradictory, it can often lead to success. Failure gives you the necessary experience you need to improve, but more importantly, it teaches you to get back up.
Open innovation is currently at the forefront of strategy within the business world. The act of disseminating innovation practices throughout a company and opening it up to other organizations has been hailed as a breakout method, a marked move away from the traditional "innovation team" focus, where, in theory, creative, innovative thought tumbles from one specific department to others. So, why is open innovation being hailed as the holy grail for business?
What can we do to invigorate the innovation system and ensure the best chance to catalyze the search for and commercialization of disruptive sustainable technologies? We need the concerted effort of numerous stakeholders: innovators, managers, investors, consumers, federal policymakers, state and local officials, activists, the media, foundations, NGOs, universities, and everyday citizens. We will need to harness the power of each of these players to have the best chance to save the Earth. Here are some thoughts on what each can do:
Using AI in a mission-driven context could supercharge the capacities of the social change sector. Specifically, it has the potential to lower costs, improve quality, and broaden the impact of social change organizations. Think of it as transforming these organizations from a VW Beetle into the USS Enterprise.
They begin as benign blips on your radar. Innocent. Unimportant. Until the day you realize they’re closing in on your turf. Sooner or later, the disruptive entities that hang around will become more than mere irritants — they'll become major competitors. You'll have to figure out when to either prepare for a fight or bring these competitors over to your side.
Encouraging creativity can backfire if employees lack the resources, support, or mechanisms to develop and implement their ideas. Indeed, when managers urge employees to invest extra effort in creativity, but then reject their ideas (often because they are single-mindedly focused on productivity and efficiency), employees become frustrated and their creativity wanes over time. As a result, innovation can stall.
The most resistant scientists and engineers saw open source methods as a fundamental challenge to their professional identities. They defined themselves as “problem solvers,” but open innovation crowdsourcing platforms didn’t let them play that role; instead, they had to frame problems for someone else to solve.
AI will liberate marketers to focus on more strategic and creative activities like campaign planning. Without AI, it will be too difficult for a marketer to compile and process the huge amounts of data coming from multiple sources like website visits, mobile app interactions, purchase transactions, and product reviews. Those who are slow to adopt AI will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage because they won’t be able to make timely, accurate, and profitable predictions about their customers.
Innovation is often just seen as the job of those in technology, new product development or marketing. For everyone else, the message is, just focus on your day job. But, by not seeing innovation as part of your role, you are missing out on some big opportunities. Here are four questions to ask yourself that will shed light on whether innovation needs to be part of your day job.
While traditional market research has its place in the modern world, and while innovative tools have made probing deeper into the habits of your target demographic infinitely easier, there is simply nothing more valuable than hearing an honest opinion from a customer. Simply put, if you want to drive innovation, you need to talk to your customers. Here’s how to do it.
I propose a framework based on my two decades of experience participating with teams that have done things successfully and via learnings from my own stumbles. I suggest companies take not just one but three paths to innovation: the moonshot, the pivot, the incremental.
When we bought a new mattress for our son we asked the company that delivered the new one what would happen to the old mattress. Goes into the landfill, they said. And I thought, what a terrible outcome. So much of the mattress could be reused - the cotton batting, the inner springs, some of the foam siding. But the cost of deconstructing a mattress, which wasn't designed to be easily taken apart, makes it difficult to get a lot of reuse from the components.
I was exposed to building things with ones hands from a very young age. I got to see and experience the innovation process up close and personal: spotting opportunities, defining the problem, brainstorming, prototyping and testing.
Take, for instance, an AI system designed to defend against human or AI hackers. To prevent the system from doing anything harmful or unethical, it may be necessary to challenge it to explain the logic for a particular action. That logic might be too complex for a person to comprehend, so the researchers suggest having another AI debate the wisdom of the action with the first system, using natural language, while the person observes.
What happens when an organization is experiencing a time of crisis? What role do innovation leaders play and how can their programs drive value in a period where an organization is in distress? A time of crisis can be an existential threat to your efforts, or a real opportunity to create value and define solutions to help the organization effectively navigate the rough terrain. Here are some actions that innovation leaders can take to drive value.
Professor Andrew Jarosz served vodka-cranberry cocktails to 20 male subjects until their blood alcohol levels neared legal intoxication and then gave each a series of word association problems to solve. Not only did those who imbibed give more correct answers than a sober control group performing the same task, but they also arrived at solutions more quickly. The conclusion: drunk people are better at creative problem solving.
Endless talks about establishing a “culture of innovation” is a distraction, rather than an enabler, in fostering corporate innovation. Instead of chasing chimeras, organizations should start implementing concrete corporate policies helping innovation take root.
Unlike managers, creative people do not think in a systematic way. They favor a chaotic approach - so there's always going to be an element of chaos when working in a creative team. A creative idea is not the endpoint of an ordered process and it will not necessarily be thought through to the bitter end. There's actually something really beautiful about this and it needs to be nurtured, because it's absolutely critical for innovation to succeed.
If you’re not looking for the best, you’re looking for good enough; you’re playing not to lose. This is a recipe for disaster. Remember: The people on your team reflect the future of your organization. So if the people on your team don’t have a growth mindset; neither will your organization.
Companies don’t get credit for long-term investments in R&D. This is both because the resulting knowledge might walk out the door, as employees join other firms or start their own, and because you can acquire firms who have the needed technology. If everyone followed that logic, however, there’d be little innovation to walk out the door or to acquire! Fortunately, neither of these concerns is warranted, and my research shows why companies, investors, and the nation will be better off if companies make long-term investments in R&D.
Innovation is about embracing the risk of failure and setting yourself up to iterate, test, validate and execute quickly. Disrupting an industry requires learning, acknowledging and respecting the things that led the industry to where it is today. Only once you understand the inefficiencies in an industry can you know where and how to innovate.
The people we saw driving impactful, world-changing initiatives just didn’t look like old-school leadership material — and didn’t seem to want to. Cautiously, we called it problem-led leadership, and launched into all the interviewing, case studying, and literature review that goes into a leadership research project.
In so many ways it often feels like innovation is both wholly new, and ancient at the same time. Tools that we use to innovate aren't new, in fact many are very old, but put to appropriate use they help us create miraculous new things. Too often we distrust old tools or methods, thinking that newer tools or methods are more current, more viable, but fail to realize that some things are simply grounded in truth, no matter hold old they are.
Innovation isn’t a one-time project. It’s a continuous activity. Which is why we are seeing numerous organizations adding an innovation department to their company infrastructure. In fact, in a recent survey of our client base, we were surprised to learn that almost 40% of our customers operate out of a dedicated innovation group.
Diversity enables problem-solving because people bring different heuristics, or simple rules, and perspectives shaped by their unique life experiences. When two engineers from two different environments team up to solve a problem about how to design space meals optimal for weight and reuse, the resulting output will be much richer than if the two engineers had both grown up in Titusville, Florida.
The truth is that the next big thing always starts out looking like nothing at all. Things that truly change the world always arrive out of context for the simple reason that the world hasn’t changed yet. They need to build up ecosystems around them and identify meaningful problems to solve. That takes time.
Managing innovation is a big role that puts a lot of weight on the shoulders of management teams. Depending on how much a company cultivates an innovative culture and environment, innovative ideas either go through chains of command, or are workshopped in specific departments.
By aggregating and analyzing massive amounts of known data, we can drastically narrow down possibilities and save enormous amounts of time and money — possibly a 10x improvement or better. That opens up massive opportunities to do research that would otherwise be cost prohibitive.