Innovation: Why We Need It

connect the dots2
When we talk about creating new processes or ways of doing things, we’re talking about change. Another word for change is innovation. And people usually want to innovate when something needs to be more effective or efficient.

Steve Jobs believed, and Sir Richard Branson believes, that innovation is connecting the dots. In other words, seeing how A-B-C are connected, and also seeing that something new is created when the dots are connected differently. It’s not always easy to see the dots, though, and businesses suffer the consequences according to innovation thought leaders.

What keeps innovation thought leaders up at night?

That question was asked at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in 2012. Participants at the Creative Workplace session, including IDEO CEO Tim Brown and OpenDNS CEO David Ulevitch, said they worried about:

  • How organizations can build creative, engaging, and energizing work environments
  • How organizations can build a culture of successful failure, and
  • How organizations can manage energy and time for resilience and performance

What do innovation thought leaders say about innovation?

They believe innovation has never been a higher business priority than it is today. Tweets aggregated by @imaginatik during the 2014 Open Innovation Festival offer clues about how some companies innovate:

  • Taking a forward-looking approach helps us get away from the “what happened?” question later @CloroxCo
  • Apply design thinking to drive user-focus and a “build to learn” attitude @intel
  • I’ve disregarded the fact that being inquisitive can get you in trouble @innoalchemist

Yet most companies struggle to innovate consistently. Some of the leading thinkers on the topic of innovation say mindsets need to change if innovation is going to occur.

Jerald Hage, co-director at the Center for Innovation at the University of Maryland said this:

Companies that want technology innovations should give their STEM professionals (people with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics backgrounds) a say in decisions.

CEOs across the board should avoid a penny-pinching mindset; stop embracing productivity and cost. It leads people to think that the best thing to do to reduce costs is to fire workers.

And Hal Gregersen, senior affiliate professor of leadership at graduate business school INSEAD had this to say:

Building a culture of productive innovation—where employees practice the five discovery skills [associating, questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting] takes time. Just opening the floor to suggestions can lead to a flood of low-value propositions.

Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim, co-authors of Blue Ocean Strategy say that it’s important to:

Shake up the status quo with a dose of “harsh reality.”

They say that people often have a perception, which is often contrary to the facts. In other words, the dots are not connected right. We must first see the dots and then connect the dots in ways that will create new efficiencies and help people be creative and productive in their work environments.

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