Innovation is "In"
Date: October 18, 2011
It seems it is once again cool to innovate, and I am pleased to see the trend. Perhaps it is because of the great hope that our current innovators are bringing to us that makes it such a hot topic, but whatever the reason, "thank you" to Steve Jobs and to all the other dreamers that have once again made innovation an "in" word.
I would like to list a few of the realities of innovation that don't get as much press as the introduction of a new Iphone or an app that can match my socks out of the dryer. There are some important lessons to know about innovation that may not as easily catch our attention.
Here are a few of the lessons I apply in my work with ACDA related to innovation:
*Not every innovation idea has to be a breakthrough idea. Some serve as the next step in the "adjacent possible", and sufficient numbers of small or incremental innovations can lead to bigger ideas;
*Sometimes innovation can come to things other than the big final product; sometimes innovations come in the areas of process, or communication, or structure. A spirit of innovation can help an environment be alert to the building blocks of the big breakthrough;
*Think in terms of an "innovation portfolio", where ideas are in various stages of development. There are the big "game changers", the midrange ideas that are in testing, and a variety of early stage ideas or hunches;
*Rigidity of management will strangle new ideas, so beware of overly tight controls;
*The real game-changing ideas will most likely cut across established channels or combine existing elements in new ways;
*Even the most technical of innovations require strong leadership, and require leaders with great relationship and communication skills;
*Innovators are connected--they know where to find and get help, and they flourish in cultures that encourage collaboration.
(Postscript: This ChoralBlog was written before we learned of the death of Steve Jobs. He will be remembered as one of the great innovators of our time. TS)