This month marks the seven year anniversary of Innovation in Practice. As always, I want to thank my many readers and supporters who follow it.
2014 was an excellent year as our message about systematic creativity continues to be heard. Jacob Goldenberg and I launched our book, Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results last year, and it was nominated for Innovation Book of the Year. We're thrilled that the book is now published in fourteen languages. It is the first detailed description of Systematic Inventive Thinking (the method and the people at SIT LLC that taught it to me.)
On December 3, 2014, the first session of the Entrepreneurship Educators Forum Webinar Series took place. The vision for the project is to create a meeting place for the community to discuss the challenges of teaching entrepreneurship, and to build an open-source platform that will enable us to collect, curate and share knowledge, teaching materials and tools that will help us guide our students effectively. Bill Aulet opened the session with a review of a roadmap for entrepreneurship education at MIT that divides the process into three main stages – nucleation, product definition and venture development.
Philips North America announced VoiceItt, developer of the voice recognition software TalkItt, as the grand prize winner of the second annual Philips Innovation Fellows competition, in partnership with global web-based crowd funding site Indiegogo, recognizing the company and technology as the next meaningful innovation in health and well-being.
Could creativity be as simple as following templates? In 1914 psychologist Wolfgang Köhler embarked on a series of studies about chimpanzees and their ability to solve problems. He documented the research in his book The Mentality of Apes. In one experiment, he took a newborn chimp and placed it in an isolated cage, before the newborn saw or made contact with other chimps. He named her Nueva.
'Tis the season for catalogs, and my favorite is Hammacher Schlemmer, America's longest running catalog, "Offering the Best, the Only and the Unexpected for 166 Years." I was curious to see if I could spot any of the five patterns of the innovation method called Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT). With eighty seven pages of cool gifts in the catalog, it wasn't hard at all. The hard part was deciding which ones to choose. Here are my favorites:
Are online reviews going extinct?
From Yelp to Amazon, reviews these days are good for just one thing: Seeing what others think of a product, service, or business. But are reviews really helpful? Could they be an outmoded one-size-fits-all solution in a world where a user's interests are increasingly customized and niche-specific? Are they going the way of the dinosaurs?
Creativity is considered by many to be a rare, elusive gift only musicians or bohemian New York artists possess. And to be sure, some people are born with more than an average amount of it. But everyone has the capacity to be creative. Many of us simply don’t call on it very often. When you intentionally call on that capacity inside, really call for it, you’ll realize it can be summoned.
Innovation is an essential ingredient to the growth and success of China's economy. The use of methods such as Systematic Inventive Thinking will accelerate that growth. But where should China focus its innovation efforts? Professors George Yip and Bruce McKern make the case that China should focus on the following:
Many "wearable tech" devices measure the calories you burn in a day. But weight watchers know that's only half the equation. You also need an accurate count of calories consumed. Now a new device will do just that. It's called Vessyl, a cup that will not only identify and track what you drink and how much of it, but also sense the liquid type. It will transform how we consume every ounce of liquid throughout the day.
The only thing worse than having too many emails is getting very long ones. When I open an email and see a long-winded message followed by a chain of other emails that have to be read as well, I dread it. After all, brevity is a virtue, and I value those emails that are short and efficient.
Now there's a new app that helps manage the problem, and it is a great example of the Subtraction Technique, one of five in the innovation method, Systematic Inventive Thinking. It's called "MailTime." MailTime re-formats and summarizes your mails into a messaging conversation view. It redesigns the way you assign tasks helps you to track information easier.
People often ask when is the best time to innovate: early in the pipeline process, middle, or late. Teams tend to resist innovation late in the process when they are busy launching a new product. Teams tend to resist innovating in the middle of the NPD process because they are too busy developing the next generation product. Teams tend to resist innovating early in the process because they are too busy developing franchise strategy. So when is the best time to innovate? Anytime.
The key to becoming extremely effective at innovation is to learn all the tools and templates that help create an initial, undefined construct, or what innovation researchers call "the pre-inventive form." This ability to apply a template, then find a useful purpose for the for what comes out of that template is what allows one to innovate on demand. Templates "make" people innovate.
Innovation should be viewed as a skill, not as a gift reserved only for special or uniquely-talented people. Innovation can be learned as with any business skill such as finance, process excellence, or leadership.