August 16, 2007
The Science of Innovation

(By Farrell Reynolds)

I look at Innovation as I would any Science; that is, from the angles of Theoretical, Applied and Practical. I feel many corporations do look at Innovation only from the theoretical POV.

That's fine, but it can't end there. If it does, Innovation becomes a "soft" science, nice to have around but not a "must have" part of the operation. These types of activities are usually the first to go when budgets get trimmed, and are never given the gravitas and respect they deserve.

What does it take to have Innovation looked at as an essential part of the operation of a company, as a hard science that can be applied and practiced?

- Make it a requirement. Markets, distribution and supply channels, customer appetites and the competitive landscape are in a state of constant change. To keep in front of this change requires Innovation. "Don't show up without it!"

- Foster it. People don't just gravitate to innovation. Innovation is hard work. We all must be educated and trained in it. Senior executives must put that training and education in their budgets as they do other types of overhead.

- Don't believe for a minute that innovation is like A Field of Dreams. "Build it and they will come" is folly when trying to create an innovative environment. It must be taught, modeled and rewarded.

- Any Innovation plan must be just that, a hard plan. It can't be an "initiative." A plan has to have milestones and expected results.

These results must be measurable and memorialized in writing. The plan must be full of great leaps. It can't be yesterday's plan with tomorrow's date on it. I'm always amazed how frequently that happens, but I'm not surprised. Innovation is scary and it is hard.

- Just as Innovation must have clear expectations and timelines, it must also have clear rewards. And these rewards should be outrageous!

- Using innovation merely to cut costs is picking the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. It's not even that, now that I think of it -- it's tantamount to picking the fruit up off the ground.
A truly robust, energized and productive Innovation program and culture must be about stellar performance, astounding and consistent displays of energy and creativity, attitudes and aptitudes that bring about cascades of revenue and a feeling of lightness and love permeating the entire organization.

In closing, I'm reminded of the cartoon of two buzzards sitting on a bare branch looking out at a bleak setting. One turns to the other and says, "Screw patience. Let's go out and eat something."

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Author: Farrell Reynolds

Posted by at August 16, 2007 02:21 PM

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