Innovation Models

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Derrick Palmer @ InnovationPoint

Don’t Start with Creativity Training

Want your company to “be more innovative and creative”? Don’t start with creativity training. Start with a project – a high priority business issue that a passionate team can sink its teeth into. Some companies put their employees through “innovation and creativity training”. They then conduct a pilot project to “try out” what was learned and to see if any of the investment paid off. It can be a long and disappointing road.

We’ve found that innovation efforts are far more successful if you start out by delivering tangible business value as the priority, versus focusing on creating a “capacity for creativity and innovative thinking”. The latter will follow assuming the right ingredients go into the former. Demonstrating results gets management’s attention and the payoff is easier to measure.

Building an entrepreneurial, creative culture is critical for long-term growth, in which training plays an important role. But don’t start there. In reshaping culture and mindset it could take a hopelessly long time before you see tangible business results – leaving your organization frustrated and disillusioned. In the absence of any clear ROI, management often resists pouring more money into something so amorphous. Beside this, organizational culture is often built upon stories and experience. What better way to shift culture than to create a real story about a real success?

Allowing your team to experience the innovation process first-hand in a real situation (rather than in the classroom) not only pays the bills, it also leads to organizational learning that is more authentic, relevant and deeply resonant. That learning can then be captured and institutionalized.

Next step? If you are going to start with a project, you’ll need to take an innovative approach, since tackling a business issue in the same old way, using the same old tools will yield the same old results. But that’s another topic.

Any feedback?


How does your organization define innovation?
Innovation is all about significantly and positively changing the yield from resources. The components of innovation include:

Satellite Sister Liz Dolan (one of the people we interviewed for the Powered by Innovation documentary film we are doing with Oregon Public Broadcasting) said to me: “Not every conversation will change your life… but any conversation can.”

Similarly, Dan Wieden (Wieden & Kennedy) says if we could all “speak from the heart” it would change the world.

TechNation radio host Moira Gunn speaks of the inside matching the outside and how conversation helps line the two up.

Conversation is the place where needs meet resources. It is the playing field where ideas spring from point/counter-point, and people leap frog to magnificent solutions.

The place of conversation, the “verge” as Joel Barker puts it, is “where something meets something else.” It is where dissimilar people meet in gathering places and accidentally discuss unusual ideas.

Innovation is about boundary spanning, ambiguity, embracing error, the asymptote principal, and living with uncertainty. These are much easier when you are with some friends and neighbors. It is moment-by-moment interaction that can rarely be planned. The best we can do is to offer an environment conducive to its occurrence.

Innovation has much to do with danger, risk, exploration, and adventure.
Yet, without the risk and almost certain failure –– the adrenalin of innovation –– nothing seems to get accomplished. Flaming failures are very informative and empowering.

Bill Gates captured one of the many reasons to take risks very well:
if you have enough information to make a business case, then you’re too late

For everyone-
Are you learning as fast as the world is changing? I believe that innovation is for everyday people living in families and communities and workplaces. Innovators can be both leaders and followers. But, what they will have in common is a yearning for something better… a desire to solve a human problem… an urge to create something from nothing… and the courage to do something about it. It is all about people that want to use creativity and innovation to accelerate finding solutions to human problems.

And –– very importantly –– innovation is fun. If you commit to the innovation revolution you will discover that laughter is the sound innovation makes when it is born.
As Walt Disney was fond of saying:
it’s always fun to do the impossible because there is less competition.

-- What terms do you use and how do you define them?

-- What do you consider absolutely fundamental to your innovation process?

-eclectic teams
-belief in the ability and skill of people in the room

-- What words related to the process of innovation do you use?
How do you define them?

Shake & Bake

-- What are the leading indicators that signal effective innovation?

-Market acceptance

-- What process does your innovation project teams use?

Collaboration not simply teams
Innovation seems to be all about courage, conversation, and community. And, while curiosity, creativity, spontaneity, and intuition are very useful, it seems that innovation seldom happens without collaboration.

Peter Jones, BIS Ltd

In my 20 years in business , I have learned that Innovation is a 3 stage process.

Stage 1 is to construct a workable strategy involving all impacted parties. In a smaller environment, this need only be one or a small series of workshops where objectives from each impacted area are captured, solutions are suggested, and an overall plan is subsequently constructed. A larger environment will call for more recognised departmental structures which have been created specifically to deal with innovation on a regular basis.

Stage 2 is to confirm the plan has support across and benefits all participants, and to ensure that an experienced innovation leader activates the plan and manages it through the twists and turns that the various activities will take.

Stage 3 is to review what happened, and to learn from both the work carried out to achieve the projected benefits and how accurate the benefit estimation process was. This learning can then be recycled into subsequent innovations for the business.

Fundamental to the success of this process is the supportive environment referred to in other comments here. It is the task of opening people's minds to possibilities and creating a climate and culture for success that is the most difficult.

We have all heard that situations are not problems but challenges, and that challenges are often opportunities. But how do we persuade experienced business people that they are not making career threatening mistakes, but gaining career enhancing learning ?

This can only emanate from the working environment created right at the very top of any company, and so is a fundamental objective of corporate leadership.

In my view, successful innovation depends on adopting successful life strategies, and the rewards can be fantastic.

Please do comment, I'd love to discuss.


Peter Cooke

To learn about innovation and where it comes from seems to depend on the motivation involved:

Supportive and encouraging environments cultivate innovation.
Innovation can come from intense panic and fear.

The desire to go beyond, do more, better, faster, or be more efficient inspires innovation.
Innovation can come from the desire to make life easier, do less.

So what is the motive for innovation? I think that should be considered.
To increase laziness?
To push the limits?
To reduce the consumptive nature of our species?
To allow us to continue to consume with reckless abandon..... (but with less impact?)?
Innovation can benefit life on the planet and inspire great social, cultural, environmental change, but almost all the pollution on planet earth and some social disasters have their roots in innovation.

Janice Maffei

You Can't Get To The Moon In A Jalopy.

This is the tagline my partner, Joanne Spigner, and I use in the innovation conversation with clients: It captures our core learning over many years.
1. Innovation sounds good, good enough to print on mugs - or posters in the elevator even - yet few organizations have the discipline, the insight or the attention span to see it through.
2. The absence of thinking time - both at work and at home - conspires to disable the innovation impulse. So many good ideas we know about (how about frozen food, velcro, e.g.)take root when an idea originator is at leisure. Filling up every available moment with e-mail, meetings, and family commitments makes it hard to cultivate the distance, the quiet, the parallel universe that incubates innovation.
3. Small things make a big difference. We have seen senior leaders with good intentions squash ideas, alienate outliers, and, in doing so, unwittingly perpetuate the status quo. If words of encouragement and belief could replace those of "prove it to me" and risk aversion, the climate for innovation would improve dramatically.

All this is to say there has never been a riper time for this conversation. We need innovation to make our companies competitive, reform our educational systems and safeguard our planet. Let's do it.

Debra Amidon

One other thought...

"Creation of a dynamic world community
in which the peoples of every nation
will be able to realise their potentialities for peace."

- Henry Morganthau, Opening Address
Bretton Woods Conference (July, 1944)

Take a look at the story of the E100 Helsinki Roundtable -

Below are several of the prevalent themes…most of which are a real advancement beyond the typical KM or even innovation messages:

· Focus on Future
· Focus on Values/Integrity
· Focus on Learning/Leadership
· Focus on the Network (Explosion) Effects
· Focus on Customers/Stakeholders
· Focus on (New) Capital
· Focus on Innovation Strategy

Perhaps the modern Bretton Woods is possible after all...

Debra Amidon

The cover of my new book carries a description:

“The world is now our manageable landscape. Connections are made East-to-West, North-to-South with many nodes in between. But The Innovation SuperHighway is not only a physical infrastructure, albeit technical and electronic. It is human – a function of insight, interaction and imagination resident in the minds, hearts and hands of people around the globe.”

If we would only…

- Embrace the tenants of collaborative, rather than competitive advantage.
- Believe in the exploration of the unknown – learn from the leaders.
- Concentrate on what’s possible.
- Reaffirm the value of responsible risk.
- Trust that creating opportunities can be more powerful than problem solving.
- Perceive cultural diversity as a foundation for true innovation.
- Act upon our insights – innovation is ‘knowledge in action’.
- Measure our progress according to the new intangible indicators.
- Incubate more good ideas – given them a chance to live.
- Practice ‘bench-learning’ – more than benchmarking – best practices.
- Realize the answers lie within ourselves.
- Treat computer and communications technology as our agent for change.
- View the globe as our network.
- Treasure our youth – treat them well and let them lead.
- Ours is a world to innovate.

In short, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we believed that we could ‘innovate our future…together’?!


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