Innovation Is Not That Hard

Innovation is something that is sorely needed – in our businesses, in our communities and in our country. Yet despite its benefits, innovation is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve.

In the business world, innovation is often described as “The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. Think of the GE slogan, “We Bring Good Things to Life.” However, I tend to favor Scott Berkun’s definition, “Innovation is significant positive change.”

What does significant mean?

In this broader context, significant is a 30% or more improvement in something. So, you could argue that any time changes are made to anything that results in a 30% or more improvement, you’re innovating. To simplify further, innovation is not invention.

Think of the BASF slogan … “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better.”

This makes innovation a little bit easier to tackle now, doesn’t it?

This distinction is necessary because we often think of innovation as ‘rocket science’ or something requiring a scientific breakthrough or a major disruption to how we do things today. This is simply not the case. However, in order for innovation to occur, it does require a certain amount of creative thinking and a departure from the norm.

“You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”

Innovation is impossible without change. Although innovation is not that hard, we tend to make it harder than it needs to be by resisting change. While innovation may not be that difficult, the implementation of those creative ideas can pose major challenges for innovators. To overcome those barriers to growth follow this recommended course of action.

How to Innovate …

  1. Start with your vision. Think outside the box when evaluating where you are today in relation to your vision. Set realistic goals to help you get there.
  2. Clearly identify the challenge. To realize the vision, what changes must occur and in what areas? Consider it from all angles — people, products, processes, systems, etc.
  3. Seek input from all sources. Change comes from within and outside the four walls. So, involve everyone in the process who can offer creative input and solutions.
  4. Ask lots of questions. Why is it done this way? What alternatives have we considered? Are there better ways of doing it? And the $64 question … Should we be doing this?
  5. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Although innovation involves experimentation and risk, a 30% improvement is significant. So, start small, learn and adjust until you achieve success.
  6. Get uncomfortable. Discomfort motivates change, and change is necessary in order for those innovative ideas to surface and be fully implemented.

When to Innovate …

Continuously. This does not mean spending every waking hour with your head in the clouds. Innovation tends to follow one of two distinct paths; it either necessitates doing the same things differently, or in many cases doing different things to bring about positive change and produce the desired results.

If you are committed to continuous improvement and growth, then innovation should already be a part of your forward thinking and 2022 strategic planning. If not … get started.

Enjoy the journey!


COPYRIGHT © 2015-22 John Carroll

(Repost of my OffBeat Magazine article published in November 2015).