Innovation in Practice Blog

May 4, 2008

Innovation Diagnostic

Professor Keith Sawyer makes a useful connection between innovation and learning when he writes, "What both innovation and learning have in common is adaptability and improvisationality." He connects this idea with authors Joaquín Alegre and Ricardo Chiva from the Sloan Management Review. They identified five core features of high organizational learning capability (OLC) companies: experimentation, risk taking, interaction with the external environment, dialogue, and participative decision making. Keith has found that these five characteristics also hold true of organizations that use the power of collaboration to generate innovation. He believes that organizations high in learning ability are more likely to be innovative organizations.
April 20, 2008

Innovation Behavior

Innovation is a skill, not a gift. Top organizations drive growth by nurturing and investing in innovation as a competency. One way organizations make it real is by including innovation within formal competency models. Professor Rodney Rogers of Portland State University defines a competency as a persistent pattern of behavior resulting from a cluster of knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations. It is the persistence of those behaviors that matter most and help your organization succeed. Competency models are a useful way to formalize that behavior and make it persistent. They help describe the ideal patterns needed for exceptional performance. They are a blueprint for the type of person needed for a specific job. And they help diagnose and evaluate employee performance. It takes a lot of work to develop one, but it's worth it.
April 6, 2008

Innovation through Co-opetition

How do you innovate a business model? You can create new products and services within the current business model to drive growth. Or you can create a new business model and open up a whole new world of possibilities for the firm. Either innovate within the current game, or change the game. But how?
March 30, 2008

The Dream Catalog

For many companies, the catalog of products is the strongest statement of brand positioning a company can make. It is your arsenal of commercialization. So imagine you could peek into the future and see a copy of your company's product catalog five years from now. What would it look like? What if you could design it now? What would you put into it? These are the questions that confront you when you use a clever innovation tool called the Dream Catalog. The Dream Catalog is a hypothetical company catalog from the future...well into the future, beyond just the next business cycle. It is far enough out into the future that it captures the innovative thinking and imagination of today's managers. It stretches a company's thinking about its future, and it provokes a healthy discussion about possible company direction. A good Dream Catalog causes tension.
March 24, 2008

People Innovation

Human Resource departments often find themselves tasked with creating a more innovative climate for their firms. That can make sense given that innovation is a people activity. It's a skill, not a gift, and it can be taught and learned like any other business skill. And it is usually team-based. My advice to HR leaders? Experience innovation close to home first. Use innovation tools on actual people or HR systems before venturing out to the broader organization. This has the effect of making true believers out of the HR team, it gives them a handy reference point for other departments to benchmark, and it yields creative new approaches to traditional HR processes.
March 16, 2008

Choosing Innovation Consultants

Choosing an innovation consultant is challenging for two reasons: the client is not always clear what type of innovation they want, or they are not sure what type of innovation a consultant offers. Here are three factors to consider when choosing an innovation consultant: 1. TYPE of consultant, 2. METHOD used, and 3. ROLE of the consultant.
March 9, 2008

Gender Role in Innovation

Optimal innovation occurs when there is an equal mix of men and women using a systematic process. I have always believed this through my observation of many innovation exercises. When a predominately male group tries to innovate, results are less impressive. When a predominately female group tries to innovate, results are less impressive. Put them together and the results are amazing.
March 4, 2008

Innovation Competency

The question is not who owns innovation, but rather who owns innovation competency development. I see more companies moving in this direction. Some place this within a process excellence group while others move it right into a functional department such as marketing or R&D. Still others have dedicated resources such as GE and Diageo, two members of the MSI Innovation Roundtable. Build innovation competency and the question of who owns innovation becomes moot.
February 24, 2008

Divide and Conquer

"Divide and Conquer" is: a. classic military strategy, b. a computer algorithm design paradigm, c. a collaborative problem solving approach, d. an innovation tool, or e. ALL THE ABOVE The answer, of course, is all the above. Division is one of the five templates of innovation in the Systematic Inventive Thinking method. The others are Subtraction, Task Unification, Multiplication, and Attribute Dependency. Templates were developed by recognizing the same consistent pattern over many products so that the pattern could be applied to create innovative new products. The method works by taking a product, concept, situation, service, process, or other seed construct, and breaking it into its basic component parts or attributes. The templates manipulate the components, one at a time, to create new-to-the-world constructs for which the innovator finds a valuable use. The notion of taking the solution and finding a problem that it can solve is called "function follows form" and is at the heart of the systematic inventive thinking process. It is innovation by working backwards.
February 17, 2008

Measuring the Immeasurable

Innovation, like most other things in business, gets caught in the trap of "how do we measure results." Innovation managers at Fortune 100 companies find themselves confronted with this question in their efforts to raise the innovation capabilities. In the end, measuring innovation doesn't matter. Measuring innovation methods is where the focus needs to be.