Innovation in Practice Blog

February 29, 2016

Innovation Clusters: Why companies are better together

Innovation is often associated with triumphant lone inventors. The likes of Thomas Edison, Louis Pasteur or Bill Gates are the central characters in this narrative. But all innovators spring out of a specific context. The environments that foster their individual and collective success are very often ‘innovation clusters’: ecosystems that stimulate and nurture the best ideas and attract the brightest talents.
February 22, 2016

Innovation Sighting: Coca Cola’s Green Billboard

Task Unification is defined as: assigning an additional task to an existing resource. That resource should be in the immediate vicinity of the problem, or what we call The Closed World. In essence, it's taking something that is already around you and giving an additional job.
February 14, 2016

10 Valentine’s Day Surprises Created With S.I.T.

Today is Valentine's Day, and to celebrate, here are ten creative ways to show how much you love your partner. I generated some of these for a TV interview yesterday on FOX19-WXIX morning news is Cincinnati. They wanted me to share how to use S.I.T. to be more creative on this special day. So here is my extended list:
February 8, 2016

Got a Great Idea? Don’t Take Credit For It

You've heard that old adage. Don't judge a book by its cover. The same holds true in creativity. We want to resist the temptation of judging ideas depending on where it came from. Yet, its very difficult for us to do this. If we like the person, we tend to like their idea. And if we don't like that person, well, let's just say we might see a few more flaws than we might have otherwise. Now you and your colleagues might not even be aware that you're doing this. And what this means for you in practice is that you have to find a way to strip ideas of their identity.
February 1, 2016

Grow By Creating New Categories

A clever way to find new growth is to change your market category or create a new one. When you create or change your category, you’re redefining the boundaries of your market space, and that opens your eyes to new targets of opportunity. Let’s look at how to do it. One way to do this is by zooming up from your current category. That means you dial the category definition up a bit to create a bigger market space.
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.
July 4, 2011

Innovation Gone Wild

AOL succumbed to the myth that creating an eclectic workspace makes employees suddenly more innovative. The headline from USA Today reads: “It’s engineers gone wild at AOL: Quirky office space inspires app innovation.” Quirky? “The space you work in is a reflection of the kind of company you are,” says Brad Garlinghouse, AOL’s president of the Application and Commerce Group. “You get innovation,” he insists, from “working in a space that’s very open and doesn’t have offices…where people can work together and play together.” Further, the company believes letting workers draw on the walls helps creativity. AOL is in more trouble than I thought.
April 18, 2011

Innovation Pilot Program

Companies can reduce the risk of adopting new innovation methods by testing them first. A short, pilot program that addresses a specific product or service line helps you understand whether a new method is right for your company. Pilot programs help keep your costs in line, and they help you reduce resistance to adopting new methods. To organize an innovation pilot program:
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: