Innovating is hard work. Perhaps the most difficult aspect is dealing with the anxiety that comes with following a systematic process. The process forces innovators to start with uncomfortable, abstract concepts that seem silly and worthless. These are called preinventive concepts because they occur right before the moment of innovating. Successful innovators learn how to deal with ambiguity and control the anxiety at this critical moment of invention. But there is a catch: some of us are better at it than others. Fortunately, there is a way to determine if you are more or less anxiety-ridden from these effects.
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.
As some U.S. automakers face inevitable restructuring, the key questions are what should they become? What is the best way to do it? The answer depends on what battle they think they are fighting. In simplest terms: should they build better cars? Build cars better? Build cars?
Consider the battles U.S. automakers have fought against the Japanese and other automakers. How has Detroit done in: design? quality? productivity? brand building? Given the steady loss of market share and margin, they seem to be losing. There are a variety of reasons, some of their own making and some not.
There is one battle worth winning more than the others - the battle of ideas. U.S. automakers need to outperform the competition in one definitive way - systematically develop and deploy a steady, uninterrupted stream of novel ideas and inventions across all aspects of their business. At the risk of falling deep into the "easier-said-than-done" category, I offer my blueprint for change for U.S. automakers: reframe, retrain, and redeploy...a model based on my own experience.
University of Michigan who I met last week while lecturing there. He was intrigued by Systematic Inventive Thinking, and he emailed me with a proposition. He noted that I preach a lot about the value of team innovation, but I don't practice what I preach. He noticed in my LAB series that I innovate alone, thus not taking advantage of the power of collaboration. He was right. So I accepted his offer to join me in my next LAB posting...this one.
We decided to innovate a computer keyboard using the Attribute Dependency tool. But there is more to the story. We did this all via phone while he was in Ann Arbor and I was in Naples, Florida on holiday. In fact, I decided to multi-task by both innovating with Zach while doing one of my favorite pastimes: fishing. My ultimate dream was to create a BIG innovation while simultaneously catching a BIG fish. Of course, luck would determine the ultimate outcome. The big innovation was something I could count on happening. Fish, on the other hand, tend to be less cooperative.
It's time to put innovation into practice.
LG Mobile Phones, the fastest growing mobile phone brand in North America, is partnering with crowdSPRING, an online marketplace for creative services, to announce a new competition to define the future of personal mobile communication. U.S. residents age 18 and over can have a chance to design their vision of the next revolutionary LG mobile phone and compete for more than $80,000 in awards. See http://www.crowdspring.com/LG for details on how to submit your ideas.
An archetype is an original model of a person, ideal example, or a prototype after which others are copied, patterned, or emulated; a symbol universally recognized by all. Archetypes put context to a situation. We use archetypes, for example, in marketing. We create brand archetypes to assign a personality to the brand. An example of such a model is shown at right. In political debate, it's useful to understand whether a commentator is an "archetypical democrat" or an "archetypical republican." This helps frame their comments so we know where they are coming from.
Listing to the Voice of Innovation is the same. As I read blogs, interviews, podcasts, and books on innovation, I try to determine the author's innovation archetype so I know where they are coming from. I observe at least four of these.
Innovation creates dilemmas, and these dilemmas can either help or hinder your innovation effort. Dilemmas arise when we confront natural tensions between two apparent opposite ideas or concepts. In business we face these dilemmas all the time: cost vs. quality, centralization vs. decentralization, stability vs. change, short term results vs. long term competitiveness. Dilemmas are dynamic but inevitable. They don't go away. They must be managed over time.
Do you consider yourself an innovator? I asked this to a group of participants at a recent PDMA workshop, and the results surprised me. Only about half of the participants raised their hand. Many of those had that hesitant look of self-doubt on their face. It's a difficult question. How do you really know if you are an innovator? Is it based on the number of patents you hold? Is it a function of your job title? Is it based on your creative endeavors like music or art? Take this self-assessment to find out. Place a check mark beside the statement you believe is more true. (Click here for a printable version and for scoring instructions.)
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."
Placing advertisements on objects such as billboards and taxis is nothing new. But here is a new twist using task unification. It is one of five templates in the corporate innovation method called S.I.T. Task Unification assigns an additional "job" to an existing resource. Here is an example as reported in USA Today: