Innovation in Practice Blog

January 25, 2016

The Wheel: A Great Innovation?

People who believe that the wheel is the greatest invention ever assume two things: That it was wholly new when it was invented, and that is was so wonderful that people adopted it immediately. Historically, neither is true.
January 18, 2016

If You Can Think It, You May Want to Ignore It

The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that occurs when people make judgments about the probability of events by how easy it is to think of examples. The availability heuristic operates on the notion that, "if you can think of it, it must be important."
January 4, 2016

Great Innovators Embrace Resistance, Not Fight It

Imagine your marketing team comes up with an idea for a great new product. You absolutely love it. But when you start shopping the idea around the building, you get some very strange looks from people. People are resisting the idea, and you and your team are getting frustrated. Resistance to innovation is a natural phenomena in companies, and it can become a huge challenge unless you manage it correctly.
December 28, 2015

Are You More Innovative Than You Think?

As a teacher of creativity, I agree that persistence is an important success factor when producing new ideas. As the researchers point out, when creative challenges start to feel difficult, most people lower their expectations about the performance benefits of perseverance, and consequently, underestimate their own ability to generate ideas. But other factors can boost...or inhibit innovation...motivation, hope, and anxiety (yes, you read it correctly - anxiety).
December 21, 2015

Eight Years of Blogging at Innovation in Practice

This month marks the eight year anniversary of Innovation in Practice. As always, I want to thank my many readers and supporters who follow it.
December 14, 2015

Can you learn to be more creative?

"So my definition would be, in order for a certain idea to be creative, it must possess two major components. One, it has to be new, novel, something we haven't seen before," says Rom Schrift, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
December 7, 2015

Building ROI and data into your innovation process

For innovators working within the confines of large enterprises, the possibilities for transformation, especially with mobile and digital products, are endless. Lean, digital disruptors threaten their larger, more rigid corporate counterparts. Many in the C-suite view these innovations as not only a way to maintain market share with consumers, but also usher in new eras of productivity, efficiency and customer engagement.
December 1, 2015

Good Business Is the Best Art

WeWork is a contemporary embodiment of the principles that drove Warhol’s Factory. WeWork bills itself as a community of creators, and has created work spaces nationwide designed to house the entrepreneurs, small business owners and artists of tomorrow, wherever they might live and work. WeWork is a business studio environment that appeals to innovators, mavericks, and artists who have left the constraints of corporate America behind and set off in pursuit of their own business missions with an eye toward building a better future.
November 23, 2015

Yes, There is Such a Thing as an Ugly Baby

Confirmation bias is the tendency for people to only seek out information that conforms to their pre-existing viewpoints, and subsequently ignore information that goes against them. You overweight the good news, and underweight the bad news.
November 16, 2015

Innovation’s New World Order

The shifting map of global innovation In the 2015 Global Innovation 1000 study, Strategy&, PwC's strategy consulting group, provides new insights into the ways corporate innovation spending—which totaled $680 billion last year—has been changing in recent years, and examines the implications both for the future course of global economies and for corporate performance. How and where innovation is performed matters: As Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter, author of classic texts on corporate strategy and the competitive advantage of nations, has noted, “Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity.”
April 11, 2011

Innovation Competency Model

To build innovation muscle, companies must include innovation in their competency models. A competency is a persistent pattern of behavior resulting from a cluster of knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations. Competency models formalize that behavior and make it persistent. They prescribe the ideal patterns needed for exceptional performance. They help diagnose and evaluate employee performance. It takes a lot of work to develop one, but it's worth it. Here is a nice example of an innovation competency modeled developed at Central Michigan University through a collaboration of authors. It could be customized to address the specific needs of a company or industry.
January 24, 2011

Don’t Brand Your Innovation Program

Companies should avoid the temptation to brand their innovation program. While it seems like a great way to bring excitement and focus to innovation, branding these programs does just the opposite. Employees become cynical, they wait it out, and they go right back to doing what they were doing before. I liken this advice to that from Edwards Deming on quality. His 14 Key Principles are legendary in the quality movement worldwide. Principle Number 10 says: "Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force."
January 17, 2011

Innovation for the Non-Profit Sector

Non-profit organizations need innovation every bit as much as for-profit firms. Some might argue they need it more because they lack the resources and cash flow of large commercial firms. Non-profits need innovation in: * Fund Raising * Expanding their reach * Mission delivery * Resource utilization The need for innovation in the non-profit sector is widely recognized. Awards, grants, and other forms of recognition for innovative programs help stimulate managers to be more aggressive. While the need is recognized, the approach to innovating non-profits is not. To innovate in the non-profit sector, these organizations should use the same methods found so effective in corporate innovation. Structured methods based on patterns inherent in inventive solutions can be applied to the non-profit business model just as effectively as the for-profit model. A method like S.I.T. can help an organization "break fixedness" about their role, resources, and process, thus opening new possibilities and approaches.
October 18, 2010

Tainted Innovation, Tempting Innovation

An idea stands a better chance of surviving if it is not attributed to the individual who conceived it. Otherwise, the idea carries with it all the baggage and perception of its owner, good or bad. During idea evaluation, people struggle separating their feelings about the ideator from the idea itself. If they like the person, they like their idea...and vice versa.
April 5, 2010

Kill Your Innovation Champion

Here are five things companies need to do to develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives to encourage successful innovation.
March 1, 2010

Innovating to Compete

nnovating is a form of competitive behavior. When we innovate, we compete with someone or something. We innovate to survive. We innovate for glory. We innovate to win. Leaders of organizations need to understand and leverage this competitive aspect of innovation to embed it into the organization. Innovating to compete occurs at many levels:
February 8, 2010

Innovation and Reputation

Sustainable innovation requires structured methods. But it also requires collaboration and information sharing among colleagues. Innovation is a team sport - groups produce better results than the lone genius. So how do you create a more favorable context for collaboration and sharing in your business unit? Reputation is what matters. The degree to which a technical worker will share information with a colleague depends on that colleague's reputation for returning the favor. The rule of reciprocity states that people give back to those in the form they have received from others. It is a social rule taught by every human society to its members - you give back to those who have given to you. But the key is: to make the first move. You have to be seen as someone who gives and shares information with others, and has a reputation for returning the favor when others give to you.
January 18, 2010

Language and Innovation

Language and innovation are inseparable. Language puts meaning to our ideas, be it spoken, written, or symbolic. We convey ideas to others which is essential in corporate innovation. Innovation would be nearly impossible if we did not have language. If you want to improve your innovation effectiveness, improve your use of language. Structured innovation methods help regulate our thinking and channel the ideation process. At the moment immediately before we innovate, we hold in our minds a pre-inventive form or structure that has yet to be understood. It is at that exact moment we begin to conjure up words and associations to attach to the pre-inventive form. It is this process of linking objective facts and judgments to the pre-inventive form that transforms it to an inventive form - an idea. Here is a step-by-step approach how language is used in innovation:
November 16, 2009

Academic Focus: University of Michigan

Once you develop the capability to generate ideas, you need a rigorous approach to managing innovation within the context of your company's culture. For that, Professor Jeff DeGraff's Competing Values Framework (CVF) is the best-in-class approach. CVF describes four organizational cultural styles of managing innovation: Collaborate, Create, Control, and Compete. Management teams tend to gravitate towards one, dominant style, the one that has served them well in the past. To be a more effective, leaders need to be "ambidextrous." Leaders should become adroit at two conflicting values. "They must develop the ability to oversee teams that work towards opposite goals, integrating them when the timing is right, so that each value can be developed successfully."
June 14, 2009

Hopeful Innovation

Are hopeful employees more innovative? A new study by Armenio Rego and his colleagues shows how employees' sense of hope explains their creative output at work. They asked one hundred and twenty five employees to rate their personal sense of hope and happiness while their supervisors rated the employees' creativity. Based on the correlations, they conclude that hope predicts creativity. Hope is defined as a positive motivational belief in one's future; the feeling that what is wanted can be had; that events will turn out for the best. Hoping is an integral part of being human. Without hope, tasks such as innovating become difficult if not impossible. Why bother if there is no hope for a successful future? "Hope is important for innovation at work because creativity requires challenging the status quo and a willingness to try and possibly fail. It requires some level of internal, sustaining force that pushes individuals to persevere in the face of challenges inherent to creative work."