An innovative corporate culture is one that supports the creation of new ideas and the implementation of those ideas. Leaders need to help employees see innovation in the right light. The most innovative companies do the following:
Creating new ideas is the first step to innovation, but it is not enough these days. Marketers need to generate excitement and support for their new opportunity. Don't make the mistake of thinking "the idea will sell it self." Just the cleverness of the concept and the revenue forecasts are not enough to sway others. Leaders have many investment choices to create growth, so you need to position your investment opportunity properly.
Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation by Dr. James Utterback is an innovation classic. It describes how technologies and industries in the past have evolved over time, usually resulting in the large, established firm losing out to the smaller startups. Looking forward, I have no doubt his models and insights will be used to explain the evolution of firms and industries with us today. "A major work that will be cited for decades," says Professor James Brian Quinn at Dartmouth. I predict a much longer time frame than decades.
The Financial Times featured an article last week calling the patent system the curse of innovation. Patents have become weapons of mass destruction in certain industries, most recently in the smart phone category.
"Escalating courtroom battles over intellectual property – whether evidence of an efficient market in ideas or a sign of a broken paten system – are placing a mounting burden on the (technology) sector…In smart phones alone, an estimated $15 to $20 billion has been spent buying patents for both defensive and offensive strategies. Legal bills are conservatively estimated at $500 million."
Many call this level of spending a colossal squander. The patent fights are not just in the tech sector. Stable industries like food, autos, and mining all face dramatic increases lawsuits.
The patent system is not the only curse associated with innovation:
The New York Times published a list of "32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow," an eclectic mix of concepts that range from the wild and wacky like SpeechJammer (#14) to more practical ideas like a blood test for depression (#25).
I analyzed each of the 32 concepts to see which ones could be explained by the five patterns of Systematic Inventive Thinking. These patterns are the "DNA" of products that can be extracted and applied to any product or service to create new-to-the-world innovations. Dr. Jacob Goldenberg found in his research that the majority of successful innovations conform to one or more of these patterns. Conversely, the majority of unsuccessful innovations (those that failed in the marketplace) do not conform to a pattern.
Imagine you just completed an innovation program, but things went terribly wrong. So wrong, in fact, that the boss won't allow anyone to use the term "innovation" in any context. You and your colleagues spent a lot of time, money, and effort only to realize that you did not get what was promised. What do you now? How do you reboot your innovation program?
Here are some tips:
Navigating complex organizations takes skill and savviness, or what some call office politics. It is such an important skill that world class companies like GE and Johnson & Johnson teach it to their employees and reward them for using it. We may not like it, but for good ideas and people to survive, we must build organizational savviness and influence skills.
Succeeding at innovation takes that same organizational savviness. Here are eight tips to improve your innovation savviness:
Asking for help may be the most powerful yet underutilized resource available for innovators. Researchers Francis Flynn and Vanessa Bohns found that people grossly underestimate the rate that others are willing to help when asked. As a result, we more often fail to ask for help when the likelihood was very high the other person would have said ‘yes.’ Consider this study they conducted at Columbia University:
New research from Johns Hopkins University suggests that having our ideas rejected tends to boost our creativity output. Sharon Kim and her colleagues found that when most of us experience rejection, it can actually enhance our creativity, depending on how we respond to it. The paper, titled “Outside Advantage: Can Social Rejection Fuel Creative Thought?,” was recently accepted for publication by the Journal of Experimental Psychology. It also received a best-paper award at the Academy of Management (AOM) conference held this month in Boston.