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.
People can improve their innovation skills by mentally simulating the use of innovation tools. Chip and Dan Heath in their book, Made to Stick, talk of the importance of mental simulation with problem solving as well as skill-building.
My crystal ball is no better than others. Rather than predict innovations, I predict what characteristics they will have and how they might be invented.
1. Mobility: Future products will incorporate some degree of mobility and integration into the mobile lifestyle. Smart phones fuel this. But mobility is not all about communications. Future products will take advantage of the data created by people as they move through their day. The innovation templates, Task Unification and Attribute Dependency, are excellent tools for identifying these opportunities.
Proto Labs, the world’s fastest manufacturer of CNC machined and injection-molded parts, has announced the launch of its Cool Idea! award, a new program designed to give product designers the opportunity to bring innovative products to life. Proto Labs will provide $100,000 worth of prototyping and short-run production services to award recipients.
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.
How we judge a creative idea is affected by how we perceive its inventor. Without realizing it, we may overvalue or undervalue a new concept and make poor choices in the product development process as a result.
Brain measuringCanadian researchers found that areas in the reward center of the brain became active when people hear a song for the first time. The more the listener enjoys what they are hear, the stronger the connections are in the region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. The study is published in the journal Science.
A new study by Philip Hans Franses of the Erasmus School of Economics in the Netherlands may suggest the point in time when we reach our creative peak.
Franses examined the lifespans of 221 famous painters between 1800 and 2004, and estimated the year they created their most creative work based on the artist's most expensive painting ever sold. "For each of these artists, the most expensive painting was identified and taken as an indicator of peak creativity," Franses said in the study.
Creativity is what you do in your head to generate an idea, while innovation is the process of putting it into practice. You need both to succeed, which may be why the number of new books on these topics seems to grow every year. Yet despite the popularity of this category and the steady stream of new books, I continue to go back to the classics, those books that actually taught me how to do it versus those books that just talked about it. Caution – these are not “light reads,” but they’re the ones I’ve learned the most from.
Could creativity be as simple as following templates? In 1914 psychologist Wolfgang Köhler embarked on a series of studies about chimpanzees and their ability to solve problems. He documented the research in his book The Mentality of Apes. In one experiment, he took a newborn chimp and placed it in an isolated cage, before the newborn saw or made contact with other chimps. He named her Nueva.