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.
Parents teach their children many things: morals, etiquette, religion, sports, cleanliness, walking, cooking, riding a bicycle, reading, writing, math, discipline, safety, driving a car...the list goes on and on. What if you could give your child the life-long ability to innovate? What a gift indeed. This issue surfaced recently after a string of emails with one of our blog readers who is interested in teaching her child how to innovate (thanks, Trish!). Can children learn a corporate innovation method at such an early age?
Learning a corporate innovation method begins with formal training, and there is no better place to do that than in graduate businesss school. I am looking foward to meeting the 37 students enrolled in my MBA course at the University of Cincinnati this month. The course, "Applied Marketing Innovation," is a full credit "special topics" course. It is a fusion of Systematic Inventive Thinking and The Big Picture marketing framework. The Syllabus can be downloaded, but here are some details about it:
This course focuses on how to create value and growth through innovation in new and existing markets. Students will learn the skills of innovation and how to apply those skills within the context of a marketing strategy framework. Students will apply innovation methods across the entire marketing management continuum including strategy, segmentation, targeting, positioning, and the 4P’s. The course will be taught using interactive workshop methods and techniques throughout. Students will first experience these facilitation techniques while learning innovation. They will then learn and practice these techniques so that they can apply them routinely throughout their graduate experience and beyond.
Visit the Applied Marketing Innovation Wiki to see a collection of inventions across a wide array of product categories as well as information about innovation consultants. The information is from students at The University of Cincinnati taking the graduate course, Applied Marketing Innovation.
Teaching people how to innovate is rewarding. It empowers them. It unlocks their minds to believe that innovation can happen "on command." People realize there is no excuse for not having enough ideas or being innovative once they have been trained.
This month's LAB features the output of one of my students, Michael Sanders, in my class, "Applied Marketing Innovation." For the final exam, students were assigned a product at random. They had three hours to apply all five templates in the Systematic Inventive Thinking method to come up with true new-to-the-world innovations. They were graded on how correctly they applied each template as well as the novelty of their inventions. Michael's assignment: Garage Door Opener. Here is what he did.
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."
Here is an opportunity to learn innovation from the same people who taught me. The course is called Innovation Suite 2009, and will be held July 27-29, 2009 in Rochester, Minnesota. For registration and more detailed information, please go to www.sitsite.com/2009innovationsuite. Here are some excerpts about the course from the registration site:
Innovation Suite 2009 will help you successfully apply innovation to three critical levels in your company: individual, team, and organization-wide. Each day of this 3-day course focuses primarily on one level. We will take you step by step from the basic tools and principles of the SIT method through hands-on team innovation and company-wide sustainable processes.
Business schools and companies need to create more internships dedicated to innovation. Most MBA internships continue to focus on traditional core functions like marketing, finance, and strategy. A few schools have innovation internships, but they focus on the technical and design points-of-view. The mainstream, non-technical B-School programs are missing an opportunity.
Innovation internships are a great way to infuse an organization with innovation process and techniques. The best internships allow the intern to learn from the company and the company to learn from the intern. The key success factors are: Selection, Sponsorship, and Structure.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has created the first-of-its kind Bachelor of Innovation™ program. Founded by Professor Terry Boult, the program is "an internationally unique interdisciplinary undergraduate program between the College of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) and College of Business (COB). The Bachelor of Innovation™ (BI) is a family structure, much like a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA), in which particular majors are defined. Included degrees (in alphabetical order): BI in Business Administration, BI in Computer Science, BI in Computer Science Security, BI in Electrical Engineering, and BI in Game Design and Development. Each degree in the program is composed of an emphasis major, an innovation core, and one of 4 cross-discipline cores."
A colleague asked me, "Who is that innovation guru at the Harvard Business School?" That's easy: Dr. Teresa Amabile.
Dr. Amabile heads the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School and is the only tenured professor at a top business school to devote her entire research program to the study of creativity. She is one of the world's leading voices in business innovation.