Defining Innovation

We often toss around the terms “innovative” or “innovation” when describing companies, products, services, or experiences. It almost seems as though the term(s) are overused. In fact, a Google search for “innovation” returns over 97 million results! If you’re one of those that throws around the term, have you ever compared the definition of “innovation” to see if it actually fits? That could prove confusing too since there are over 18.8 million search results for “definition of innovation”. If we use the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of “innovation”, it would be described as “the introduction of something new [or] a new idea, method or device”.


Posted by Justin Levy

We often toss around the terms “innovative” or “innovation” when describing companies, products, services, or experiences.  It almost seems as though the term(s) are overused.  In fact, a Google search for “innovation” returns over 97 million results!  If you’re one of those that throws around the term, have you ever compared the definition of “innovation”

We often toss around the terms “innovative” or “innovation” when describing companies, products, services, or experiences.  It almost seems as though the term(s) are overused.  In fact, a Google search for “innovation” returns over 97 million results!  If you’re one of those that throws around the term, have you ever compared the definition of “innovation” to see if it actually fits?  That could prove confusing too since there are over 18.8 million search results for “definition of innovation”.  If we use the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of “innovation”, it would be described as “the introduction of something new [or] a new idea, method or device”. Leer más “Defining Innovation”

10 Basic Principles of Innovation

Today’s post is from Matthew Greeley, Founder and CEO of Brightidea, the global leader in On-Demand Innovation Management software. Prior to founding Brightidea, Matthew consulted for Wrenchead.com, helping them raise over $100 million in venture funding from investors. He holds a degree in Computer Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology and studied Creativity and Marketing at Stanford University. In addition to his role at Brightidea, Matthew sits on the board of directors of ClearDay Technologies.

After 10 years of working in the trenches of innovation, I have attempted to distill down the ten MOST important concepts that I believe anyone working in this field should be aware of:


Posted by Erica Templeman

Today’s post is from Matthew Greeley, Founder and CEO of Brightidea, the global leader in On-Demand Innovation Management software. Prior to founding Brightidea, Matthew consulted for Wrenchead.com, helping them raise over $100 million in venture funding from investors.  He holds a degree in Computer Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology and studied Creativity and Marketing […]

Today’s post is from Matthew Greeley, Founder and CEO of Brightidea, the global leader in On-Demand Innovation Management software. Prior to founding Brightidea, Matthew consulted for Wrenchead.com, helping them raise over $100 million in venture funding from investors.  He holds a degree in Computer Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology and studied Creativity and Marketing at Stanford University. In addition to his role at Brightidea, Matthew sits on the board of directors of ClearDay Technologies.

After 10 years of working in the trenches of innovation, I have attempted to distill down the ten MOST important concepts that I believe anyone working in this field should be aware of: Leer más “10 Basic Principles of Innovation”

Evolutionary Innovation

One of the big mistakes that smart people commonly make is to think that a great idea sells itself. If this were true, innovation would be fairly simple – just come up with great ideas. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. Innovation is actually a process – you need to generate great ideas, you need to select the best ones and figure out how to execute them, and you have to get these executed ideas to spread.

These three steps are variety, selection and replication – that’s an evolutionary process. In fact, the history of the idea of evolution through natural selection provides a good lesson in how innovation is more than just coming up with great ideas.

We think of evolution by natural selection as Charles Darwin’s idea. However, the first public disclosure of Darwin’s big idea happened at a meeting of the Linnean Society in 1858 – and at that meeting two papers on evolution by natural selection were read. One was written by Darwin, and the other was written by Alfred Russell Wallace. One of the most powerful ideas of the past 200 years was developed nearly simultaneously by two people. And the initial impact of this great idea was, well, nothing.


Posted by TimothyKastelle

One of the big mistakes that smart people commonly make is to think that a great idea sells itself. If this were true, innovation would be fairly simple – just come up with great ideas. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. Innovation is actually a process – you need to generate great ideas…

One of the big mistakes that smart people commonly make is to think that a great idea sells itself. If this were true, innovation would be fairly simple – just come up with great ideas. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. Innovation is actually a process – you need to generate great ideas, you need to select the best ones and figure out how to execute them, and you have to get these executed ideas to spread.

These three steps are variety, selection and replication – that’s an evolutionary process. In fact, the history of the idea of evolution through natural selection provides a good lesson in how innovation is more than just coming up with great ideas.

We think of evolution by natural selection as Charles Darwin’s idea. However, the first public disclosure of Darwin’s big idea happened at a meeting of the Linnean Society in 1858 – and at that meeting two papers on evolution by natural selection were read. One was written by Darwin, and the other was written by Alfred Russell Wallace. One of the most powerful ideas of the past 200 years was developed nearly simultaneously by two people. And the initial impact of this great idea was, well, nothing. Leer más “Evolutionary Innovation”

The Power of Saying No

The inability to say ‘no’ more often than not finds its beginnings in an organization’s lack of, or poorly articulated strategy. In recent years, with technological change progressing at an ever-increasing pace, the notion of an organization actually forming a forward-looking, long-term strategy has seemed quaint. It was as though technology would cover up any missteps with its inherent magical powers. How wrong-headed that has proved to be.

Those who choose to ignore the necessity of having a robust strategy pay for its absence. Usually that cost is in poor quality products or services, missed customer deadlines, and eventually lost market share. All of which is in addition to the internal conflict, chaos and fire-fighting that arises when priorities are unclear across an organization. Strategy is the framework of choices that help an organization determine what it will become. It clearly defines what it will do, but more importantly it defines a much great category of things that it will not do. Without a strategy there is nothing against which an idea might be tested and found wanting. Strategy creates the constraints within which innovation thrives.

One of the reasons why Apple is so successful today is not only because they are so innovative (although it helps!), rather their success lies in an organization-wide capability for how to say ‘no.’ Focus and constraint are just as much a part of their design and innovation processes as is their attention to detail and the creation of things with which their customers fall in madly love.


Posted by DrewMarshal

The art of leadership is saying ‘no’, not saying ‘yes.’ It is very easy to say ‘yes.’ -Tony Blair
In a world awash in opportunities there is so much to be explored (and so much time to wasted.) Let’s spread ourselves too thin, shall we? There are so many ways in which energy […]

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The art of leadership is saying ‘no’, not saying ‘yes.’ It is very easy to say ‘yes.’Tony Blair

In a world awash in opportunities there is so much to be explored (and so much time to wasted.) Let’s spread ourselves too thin, shall we? There are so many ways in which energy may be spent, resources consumed, and money burned. For an organization with IADD (Innovation Attention Deficit Disorder) a world with multiple possibilities is not a good thing. Indeed it may be crippling.

How does this affliction manifest itself? Leer más “The Power of Saying No”

Innovative Vs Inventive

“Has any other company ever demonstrated a restlessness to stray from the safe and proven, and actually invent things like Apple?”

I came across this question and it made me pause for a moment. Has there been any other company that does what Apple does? But directly on the heels of that thought was a second—Apple doesn’t invent, they improve. They improve really well, and through design and marketing, they make their products wildly successful. They just don’t invent completely new products that haven’t been seen before.

Apple has a history of innovating products to make them better than before—more functional, easier to use, and key features that we couldn’t dream of living without now. They didn’t, however, invent the computer. They did bring it to the masses in an easy to purchase, set up and use system. How easy? I was using an Apple II before I could talk, or had hair for that matter. They didn’t invent the MP3 player, but creating an interface to purchase/download guaranteed music and making it sync seamlessly with their product? Ingenious. They didn’t invent the touch-screen tablet computer, but they’ve proven that their touch in design can make quite the stir.


Mí primer Apple MP3 Player...
Image by lu6fpj – Facundo A. Fernández via Flickr
Posted by Erica Templeman

“Has any other company ever demonstrated a restlessness to stray from the safe and proven, and actually invent things like Apple?”

I came across this question and it made me pause for a moment. Has there been any other company that does what Apple does? But directly on the heels of that thought was a second—Apple doesn’t invent, they improve. They improve really well, and through design and marketing, they make their products wildly successful. They just don’t invent completely new products that haven’t been seen before.

Apple has a history of innovating products to make them better than before—more functional, easier to use, and key features that we couldn’t dream of living without now. They didn’t, however, invent the computer. They did bring it to the masses in an easy to purchase, set up and use system. How easy? I was using an Apple II before I could talk, or had hair for that matter. They didn’t invent the MP3 player, but creating an interface to purchase/download guaranteed music and making it sync seamlessly with their product? Ingenious. They didn’t invent the touch-screen tablet computer, but they’ve proven that their touch in design can make quite the stir. Leer más “Innovative Vs Inventive”

The Structural Dilemma of Creating an Innovation Culture

Definition & Control
As organizations grow and evolve over time their business functions and processes formalize in support of bringing their products and services to market. Over time authority consolidates so that there are agreed upon channels for communication and decision making. The strategic goals of the organization are driven from the top down into the organization through goal-setting and often those goals are directly tied to individuals’ performance expectations. Business processes and systems are defined and marked for vigilant management and incremental improvement. The organization becomes solid, tightly integrated, and an excellent platform for delivering a relatively stable mission.

It is possible to have too much of a good thing and when taken to their limits within these performance biases there are inherent drawbacks.

In the consolidation of authority the speed of decision making often decreases. The reason for this is that communication regarding the nature of the decision needs to rise to the appropriate level of the organization with the decision making authority. The further away from the point at which the decision needs to be made, the increase in the amount of information that needs to be provided to ensure that the decision is made with the appropriate data. This doesn’t take into account the communication styles of those requesting the decision, making a recommendation, or making the final decision. Often this communication process results in delay and missing information is provided and the decision intent is clarified.

The ownership of the strategy at the top of the organization may also be an impediment to effective innovation. If an organization’s strategy is primarily understood at the senior management level and enacted at lower levels in the organization hierarchy there may be a disconnection between environmental and marketplace awareness and the ongoing suitability of a particular strategy. A strategic blindness pervades. If clients’ needs change or technology shifts the chances are those most closely engaged with clients and the marketplace will see that first. If what they are seeing is at counterpoint to the organization’s established strategy the process of raising the alarm in order to modify performance to address the changing conditions in the field may be wanting.

The inability to respond swiftly has long been a hallmark of larger, well-established organizations. When faced with well-defined business processes and systems it can be a challenge to modify or remove them in the face of a need to change an organization’s business model. The beauty of a large organization is the ability to focus the appropriate allocation of limited resources to the best effect. Often management focuses on incremental improvement and the elimination of errors rather than wholesale change, especially when performance goals drive toward certain returns. This practice leaves little room for the exploration, let alone failure, required for meaningful and effective innovation. It is simply too hard to change the direction of a organization like this when everything about its configuration is designed to reinforce the structural integrity of that configuration.

The world’s largest oil tanker is the Knock Nevis; its size beggars belief*. It takes five and half miles to stop with a turning circle of over two miles. It takes nearly fifteen minutes to turn 180 degrees. Now, while you would rarely want to turn an oil tanker 180 degrees, as the likelihood of your going in completely the wrong direction is low, the effort involved is enormous. For a large organization their sheer size and complexity makes changing their culture a similarly challenging prospect. That does not mean that they are incapable of innovation, far from it. There are too many examples for large companies changing their culture to increase their innovation effectiveness; Proctor & Gamble and GE come to mind immediately. But accounts of their changes describe years-long efforts. Effective? Certainly. Nimble? Not so much.


Comparison of Oil tanker Knock Nevis to world'...
Image via Wikipedia
Posted by DrewMarshall

The struggle of creating an innovation culture, a culture that supports innovative thinking and output as compared to an innovative culture (one marked by internal differentiation), can readily be framed as a structural dilemma. There are two seemingly contradictory operating instincts that must be reconciled in order for an innovation culture to be sustained. The first is the bias, especially in larger, older organizations, towards definition and control of all aspects of organization life. The second bias, a start-up or entrepreneurial mindset, tends towards differentiation and creativity. As you can imagine this reconciliation process requires tough trade-offs. Leer más “The Structural Dilemma of Creating an Innovation Culture”

Do We Retire at 65? An Innovation Story

Here’s an interesting question:

Why is the Retirement Age 65 in most developed countries?

I’ll give you a second to think about it. Or google it.

Here’s a hint: the retirement age of 65 was first selected in 1880.

Here’s the answer: the retirement age was set at 65 because when it was first introduced by Otto von Bismarck, hardly anyone lived that long. Here’s a quick rundown on that:

The age of 65 was originally selected as the time for retirement by the “Iron Chancellor,” Otto von Bismark of Germany, when he introduced a social security system to appeal to the German working class and combat the power of the Socialist Party in Germany during the late 1800s. Somewhat cynically, Bismark knew that the program would cost little because the average German worker never reached 65, and many of those who did lived only a few years beyond that age. When the United States finally passed a social security law in 1935 (more than 55 years after the conservative German chancellor introduced it in Germany), the average life expectancy in America was only 61.7 years.


Posted by TimothyKastelle

Here’s an interesting question:
Why is the Retirement Age 65 in most developed countries?
I’ll give you a second to think about it. Or google it.
Here’s a hint: the retirement age of 65 was first selected in 1880.
Here’s the answer: the retirement age was set at 65 because when it was first introduced by Otto von […]

Here’s an interesting question:

Why is the Retirement Age 65 in most developed countries?

I’ll give you a second to think about it. Or google it.

Here’s a hint: the retirement age of 65 was first selected in 1880.

Here’s the answer: the retirement age was set at 65 because when it was first introduced by Otto von Bismarck, hardly anyone lived that long. Here’s a quick rundown on that:

The age of 65 was originally selected as the time for retirement by the “Iron Chancellor,” Otto von Bismark of Germany, when he introduced a social security system to appeal to the German working class and combat the power of the Socialist Party in Germany during the late 1800s. Somewhat cynically, Bismark knew that the program would cost little because the average German worker never reached 65, and many of those who did lived only a few years beyond that age. When the United States finally passed a social security law in 1935 (more than 55 years after the conservative German chancellor introduced it in Germany), the average life expectancy in America was only 61.7 years. Leer más “Do We Retire at 65? An Innovation Story”

5 Steps to Have an Innovative Brainstorm

For every project I embark on, be it professional or personal, it all starts with an idea and a brainstorm. But how does one go about planning what can be a freeform and creative process based on flighty inspiration? Can you plan out how you will innovate?

I think not, but you can set yourself up for success. You can steer your way towards innovation. And the best place to start, is the beginning at the brainstorm. Here are the steps that I follow:

1. Ideate. Throw ideas around, free of reality restraint. Go for the game-changer than will fulfill any lacking. Be as creative and innovative as possible.
2. Vet. Give your idea a healthy dose of reality—what could stand in your idea’s way? What are sticking points and stumbling blocks? This is where you anticipate and plan how to navigate obstacles.


Posted by Erica Templeman

For every project I embark on, be it professional or personal, it all starts with an idea and a brainstorm. But how does one go about planning what can be a freeform and creative process based on flighty inspiration? Can you plan out how you will innovate?
I think not, but you can set yourself up […]

For every project I embark on, be it professional or personal, it all starts with an idea and a brainstorm. But how does one go about planning what can be a freeform and creative process based on flighty inspiration? Can you plan out how you will innovate?

I think not, but you can set yourself up for success. You can steer your way towards innovation. And the best place to start, is the beginning at the brainstorm. Here are the steps that I follow:

  1. Ideate. Throw ideas around, free of reality restraint. Go for the game-changer than will fulfill any lacking. Be as creative and innovative as possible.
  2. Vet. Give your idea a healthy dose of reality—what could stand in your idea’s way? What are sticking points and stumbling blocks? This is where you anticipate and plan how to navigate obstacles. Leer más “5 Steps to Have an Innovative Brainstorm”

OnInnovation : Visionaries thinking out loud™

Low Tech Tools to Foster High Output Innovation Thinking

One of the questions often asked by those seeking to create a strong innovation culture is, “What are some good tools for engaging people across my organization?” Well the consultant in me would usually hedge his bets and would offer the universal response, “It depends.” But that is as singularly unsatisfying to say as it is to hear, so I mostly take a multiple alternative approach in the hopes of landing close to the targeted need. The first place I usually start is with some of the very lowest of low tech: playing cards, or their trading card equivalent. Why? Because they are fast, fun, revealing, and energizing in a way that is distinct from other more formal tools.

The idea of using playing cards in unique ways is not anything new. Did you know that there aren’t only four suites of playing cards? We all know the usual suspects of Hearts, Diamonds, Spades and Clubs. There are also fifth suit variants that introduced an additional suit. Depending the time, location and game being played these suits might have been, Royales, Eagles, Stars, Pentagons, Quotations, or even Aether. Some modified decks have additional face cards and additional numbered cards, too. In the United States of America, in 1895, a gentleman by the name of Hiram Jones created a deck called “International Playing Cards” and it had two additional suits, a red suit with crosses and a black suit of bullets. Innovation in playing cards has a long and storied history.

The interest expressed by many clients is focused on how to use standard cards in a unique manner. Marshall McLuhan, the noted advertising guru of the 20th Century used a standard set of four-suit playing cards as the basis for his creative thought starter set, the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Card Deck. The namesake Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line was an integrated chain of some 63 radar and communication stations, stretching across Arctic Canada at approximately the 69th parallel designed to provide advance warning of imminent air attack to Canada and the United States. The DEW Line was considered a perfect metaphor by McLuhan on the role of art and the artist at a time of rapid social and technological change and he repeated the idea frequently.

To the blind all things are sudden. -Quote on the Jack of Diamonds in Marshall McLuhan’s Distant Early Warning (DEW) Card Deck


Playing with a Full Deck

Posted by DrewMarshall on July 30, 2010

Low Tech Tools to Foster High Output Innovation Thinking
One of the questions often asked by those seeking to create a strong innovation culture is, “What are some good tools for engaging people across my organization?” Well the consultant in me would usually hedge his bets and would offer the universal response, “It depends.” But that […]

Low Tech Tools to Foster High Output Innovation Thinking

One of the questions often asked by those seeking to create a strong innovation culture is, “What are some good tools for engaging people across my organization?” Well the consultant in me would usually hedge his bets and would offer the universal response, “It depends.” But that is as singularly unsatisfying to say as it is to hear, so I mostly take a multiple alternative approach in the hopes of landing close to the targeted need. The first place I usually start is with some of the very lowest of low tech: playing cards, or their trading card equivalent. Why? Because they are fast, fun, revealing, and energizing in a way that is distinct from other more formal tools.

The idea of using playing cards in unique ways is not anything new. Did you know that there aren’t only four suites of playing cards? We all know the usual suspects of Hearts, Diamonds, Spades and Clubs. There are also fifth suit variants that introduced an additional suit. Depending the time, location and game being played these suits might have been, Royales, Eagles, Stars, Pentagons, Quotations, or even Aether. Some modified decks have additional face cards and additional numbered cards, too. In the United States of America, in 1895, a gentleman by the name of Hiram Jones created a deck called “International Playing Cards” and it had two additional suits, a red suit with crosses and a black suit of bullets. Innovation in playing cards has a long and storied history.

The interest expressed by many clients is focused on how to use standard cards in a unique manner. Marshall McLuhan, the noted advertising guru of the 20th Century used a standard set of four-suit playing cards as the basis for his creative thought starter set, the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Card Deck. The namesake Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line was an integrated chain of some 63 radar and communication stations, stretching across Arctic Canada at approximately the 69th parallel designed to provide advance warning of imminent air attack to Canada and the United States. The DEW Line was considered a perfect metaphor by McLuhan on the role of art and the artist at a time of rapid social and technological change and he repeated the idea frequently.

To the blind all things are sudden. -Quote on the Jack of Diamonds in Marshall McLuhan’s Distant Early Warning (DEW) Card Deck Leer más “OnInnovation : Visionaries thinking out loud™”