Parents teach their children many things: morals, etiquette, religion, sports, cleanliness, walking, cooking, riding a bicycle, reading, writing, math, discipline, safety, driving a car...the list goes on and on. What if you could give your child the life-long ability to innovate? What a gift indeed. This issue surfaced recently after a string of emails with one of our blog readers who is interested in teaching her child how to innovate (thanks, Trish!). Can children learn a corporate innovation method at such an early age?
A corporate innovation method should be robust enough to produce incremental as well as disruptive ideas. One of my favorite templates in the S.I.T. method is called Division because it does just that. The Division template takes a product or service, divides it or its components, and rearranges them to form a new product or service. It is a particularly useful template to help people see their product or service in completely new ways. It helps people get unstuck from the "fixed" frame that we all have naturally about our products or services. My favorite example of Division happened during an innovation training session. One of the participants was a bit cynical about the method and using patterns to innovate anything. To help him overcome this, I let him select any product or service that he was convinced could not be innovated further. He chose the refrigerator, a concept that has been with us since 1000 BC. What follows is how we used Division in this spontaneous exercise to change his mind.
Once you have a systematic and routine way to innovate, you are confronted with a new problem - how to decide how much innovation is enough. For many, this is odd an question. If innovation is essential for survival and growth, most people would want all the innovation they can get. But that is oversimplifying. Too much innovation can overload the system, confuse the organization, and lead to ideation fatigue. So how much is enough?
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.
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.
Here is an opportunity to learn innovation from the same people who taught me. The course is called Innovation Suite 2009, and will be held July 27-29, 2009 in Rochester, Minnesota. For registration and more detailed information, please go to www.sitsite.com/2009innovationsuite. Here are some excerpts about the course from the registration site:
Innovation Suite 2009 will help you successfully apply innovation to three critical levels in your company: individual, team, and organization-wide. Each day of this 3-day course focuses primarily on one level. We will take you step by step from the basic tools and principles of the SIT method through hands-on team innovation and company-wide sustainable processes.
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:
“We put the ‘no’ in innovation!” The good people at Post Cereal have a new twist on innovation…NOT innovating as a statement of the products ubiquity and staying power. “Some things just weren’t meant to be innovated." How could I resist? It was just too tempting to use systematic innovation on this simple product, especially in light of the perception that it should not be innovated. Though the ad campaign is a spoof, I wonder just how much the people at Post really believe this. What if shredded wheat could be innovated to create new growth potential for this sixty year old product?
Here is an example of the Multiplication Template, one of five in the corporate innovation method called S.I.T.. It is from the Taylor Guitars, one of the leading companies in the category and one of the most innovative. The Multiplication Template makes copies of components but changes the copies in some way from the original. Taylor has multiplied the pickguard of their electric guitar series, but changed the configuration with different styles of magnetic pickups (the part that translates the sound from the strings). It is a clever idea because guitar owners can re-configure their guitar for different playing situations. It helps Taylor Guitar extend their product reach into the aftermarket for guitar parts and maintain a more loyal following of customers.