Innovation in Practice Blog

February 6, 2008

The Not-So-Fuzzy Front End

A best practice at Fortune 100 companies is to see the front end of the pipeline not as fuzzy, but as crystal clear. A systematic approach to innovation using an effective process can take away the mystery of the front end, and create a sustainable growth engine.
January 27, 2008

In Search of Bad Ideas

Mitch Ditkoff notes a common misperception regarding bad ideas: "One of the inevitable things you will hear at a brainstorming session is something like "there are no bad ideas." Well, guess what? There are plenty of bad ideas....The key for aspiring innovators? To find the value in what seems to be a "bad idea" and then use that extracted value as a catalyst for further exploration." I agree. Good ideas usually start as bad ideas, an insight I learned originally from the folks at S.I.T.. But the question is: how do you extract the value from a bad idea to transform it? I offer three approaches.
January 22, 2008

Young it Down

Technology improves our lives in many ways, but overreliance on it can cause us to "dumb down." Technology has a tendency to fill in or take over certain tasks for the consumer, relieving us of cognitive activities that we once did ourselves. These cognitive activities get weak or atrophied. We get lazy and dependent on the new technology to do our work for us. We become dumb.
January 19, 2008

Innovation vs. Leadership

Which is easier to learn: innovation or leadership? That is one of my favorite questions to ask during keynotes and workshops, especially to groups of accomplished leaders. What amazes me is the answer I get back: overwhelmingly, groups of executives say that leadership is easier to learn than innovation.
January 13, 2008

Innovation Subversives

My advice: stop evangelizing and start doing. Use a proven innovation method on a mainstream issue or product and let the results speak for themselves. Don't ask permission. Don't call it innovation. Don't preach the "..see, I told you!" message. And then...do it again. I take advice from Thomas Bonoma's classic HBR article from 1986, "Marketing Subversives."
January 10, 2008

Funding Innovation

From my experience, there are two choices in how to fund innovation: invention or development. Invention means the actual genesis of the idea, usually through a concentrated effort or workshop using a proven method. Development is what you do with the ideas that have commercial merit. Both take time and money. The choice depends on whether you think spending the money to generate ideas will yield more than a pool of funds to invest the ideas that you already have.
January 6, 2008

Lessons from Improv

I've come full circle on the notion of improvisation as a source of innovation. I just finished a three day improv training program at The Second City to try to find direct application to corporate growth. I found it.
December 30, 2007

Innovation for the Ages

If 6th graders can learn to innovate in real time, so can the business world. That is why companies are embracing more productive, systematic methods of innovating and shunning traditional methods.
December 26, 2007

Innovation Roundtable

The Marketing Science Institute has formed a new Innovation Roundtable to explore common issues and challenges in the world of corporate innovation. The roundtable representatives are from Johnson & Johnson, GE, P&G, Diageo, Eastman Kodak, AT&T, Kraft, Merck, Thompson Healthcare, Praxair, Aetna, and General Mills.
December 21, 2007

Tempting Innovation

What about adoption of ideas of others inside your organization? Innovators faces a particularly challenging issue getting colleagues to accept their ideas. Tanya Menon from the University of Chicago describes the paradox of an external idea being viewed as "tempting" while the exact same idea, coming from an internal source, is considered "tainted."
December 21, 2007

Tempting Innovation

What about adoption of ideas of others inside your organization? Innovators faces a particularly challenging issue getting colleagues to accept their ideas. Tanya Menon from the University of Chicago describes the paradox of an external idea being viewed as "tempting" while the exact same idea, coming from an internal source, is considered "tainted."
December 20, 2007

Will it Fly?

When you innovate on a regular basis, you create another problem for yourself...how to evaluate new product ideas to see which ones to pursue. Evan Williams has outlined a useful set of criteria to do just that in his article: "Will it Fly? How to Evaluate a New Product Idea." He has even applied the criteria to some of his own creations like Blogger and Twitter.
December 16, 2007

When to Innovate

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.
December 8, 2007

Can you make me be more creative?

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.
December 4, 2007

Why Innovation is Hard: Ten Most Popular Reasons

A systematic, routine to way to innovate can break through the challenges and perceptions that innovation is hard.
December 2, 2007

Innovation is a Skill, Not a Gift

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.