How and Who of Innovation

Many innovation experts urge overcoming roadblocks by “doing something different”, and Alex Cornell joins the chorus in his Breakthrough!: Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination 

In contrast, Tom Kelley offered more specific guidance in the stages of “how” innovation is managed at IDEO in   
  The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm:

•              Analyze the market, potential client groups, technology, and constraints for each innovation problem
•              Observe people in typical life situations
•              Visualize novel concepts and their intended customers
•              Evaluate and refine prototypes during rapid iterations
•              Implement new concept for commercialization

Steven Johnson offers seven non-linear principles of innovation in Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation:                                                          

•              Adjacent possible: Timing is essential for innovation to be accepted

•              Liquid networks: Connections between different disciplines to enable ideas development and implementation

•              Slow hunch: Insights incubate, germinate over time before becoming executable

•              Serendipity: Spontaneous, chance juxtaposition of ideas applied to other

•              Error: Outcomes considered “failures” from numerous trials  may lead to – and be required – to successfully implement ideas

•              Exaptation: Reusing existing ideas, technologies for a different purpose

•              Platforms: Adapting, recombining existing knowledge, components, implementation approaches to develop something new

Expert innovators seem to follow these guidelines and have developed skill through what Geoff Colvin calls “Deliberate Practice” in “What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else”, the sub-title of his book, Talent is Overrated.

He notes that Deliberate Practice is not considered “fun”, but is a highly demanding and repeated mental challenge, systematically designed to improve performance with consistent expert monitoring and feedback.

Colvin’s premise is based on K. Anders Ericsson’s classic Harvard Business Review article, “The Making of an Expert“, which outlines three contributors to superior performance across disciplines:

•             Deliberate Practice to improve existing skills and to extend the reach and range of skills
•             Expert coaching with consistent monitoring and corrective feedback
•              Support from family and mentors

Kelley of IDEO focused more recently on the “who” of innovation in The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization, organized by Learning, Building, and Organizing capabilities:                     

•              Experience
•              Set Designer
•              Caregiver
•              Storyteller
•              Anthropologist
•              Cross-pollinator
•              Hurdler
•              Experimenter
•              Collaborator
•              Director
Meredith Belbin offered similar analysis of eight team roles in his Team Roles at Work  and Management Teams: Why they succeed or fail  to ignite collaborative strategy definition and execution.   

These findings suggest that processes and practices can help shape innovation, but consistent, focused and attentive practice increases capacity to innovate more than “natural talent” — validating the well-known homespun advice to “work hard” and demonstrate a “strong work ethic.”

-*What processes and roles do you use to increase innovation at work?

Related post:  
It’s Mostly Random, So Just Do Something: Suggestions to Guide Innovation, Creativity

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Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

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