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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Innovation, like most other things in business, gets caught in the trap of "how do we measure results." Innovation managers at Fortune 100 companies find themselves confronted with this question in their efforts to raise the innovation capabilities. In the end, measuring innovation doesn't matter. Measuring innovation methods is where the focus needs to be.
"Divide and Conquer" is: a. classic military strategy, b. a computer algorithm design paradigm, c. a collaborative problem solving approach, d. an innovation tool, or e. ALL THE ABOVE
The answer, of course, is all the above. Division is one of the five templates of innovation in the Systematic Inventive Thinking method. The others are Subtraction, Task Unification, Multiplication, and Attribute Dependency. Templates were developed by recognizing the same consistent pattern over many products so that the pattern could be applied to create innovative new products. The method works by taking a product, concept, situation, service, process, or other seed construct, and breaking it into its basic component parts or attributes. The templates manipulate the components, one at a time, to create new-to-the-world constructs for which the innovator finds a valuable use. The notion of taking the solution and finding a problem that it can solve is called "function follows form" and is at the heart of the systematic inventive thinking process. It is innovation by working backwards.
Human Resource departments often find themselves tasked with creating a more innovative climate for their firms. That can make sense given that innovation is a people activity. It's a skill, not a gift, and it can be taught and learned like any other business skill. And it is usually team-based. My advice to HR leaders? Experience innovation close to home first. Use innovation tools on actual people or HR systems before venturing out to the broader organization. This has the effect of making true believers out of the HR team, it gives them a handy reference point for other departments to benchmark, and it yields creative new approaches to traditional HR processes.
For many companies, the catalog of products is the strongest statement of brand positioning a company can make. It is your arsenal of commercialization. So imagine you could peek into the future and see a copy of your company's product catalog five years from now. What would it look like? What if you could design it now? What would you put into it? These are the questions that confront you when you use a clever innovation tool called the Dream Catalog.
The Dream Catalog is a hypothetical company catalog from the future...well into the future, beyond just the next business cycle. It is far enough out into the future that it captures the innovative thinking and imagination of today's managers. It stretches a company's thinking about its future, and it provokes a healthy discussion about possible company direction. A good Dream Catalog causes tension.