“Launching a new enterprise (…) has always been a hit or miss proposition (…) 75% of all start-ups fail. But recently an important countervailing force has emerged, one that can make the process of starting a company less risky. It’s a methodology called the “lean start-up,” an it favors experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition, and iterative design over traditional “big design up front” development. Although the methodology is just a few years old, its concepts – such as “minimum viable product” and “pivoting” – have quickly taken root in the start-up world.” – “Why the Lean Start-up Changes Everything” by Steve Blank.
“Although the experience of insight is sudden and can seem disconnected from the immediately preceding thought, these studies show that insight is the culmination of a series of brain states and processes operating at different time scales (…) if we want to be creative, we have to be dedicated.” – Adapted from “Creativity Is Really Just Persistence, And Science Can Prove It” by Drake Baer.
In my previous article I outlined 40+ items. All of them have to do with “exploring and experimenting,” which I believe to be corner stones of research and, hence, innovation engines. There is no denying that intuitive, casual and even accidental discoveries happen. Though, business wise, we need to figure out what it takes to engage in serial innovativeness. This is required to “cross the chasm” and to further an enterprise’s relevance and value.
As shared in an earlier article, we need to think and to connect the dots across (a) opportunities to support today’s business and to keep working on (c) creating the future. This makes sense whether we are involved in agile projects prompting short cycles or in long term research and development impacted by moving targets.
In my view, both assignments are clearly interrelated and share the need for analytical skills, devoting research efforts and, therefore, “exploration and experimentation” coupled with unconventional problem solving. This is what develops and nurtures creative thinking to a point at which it becomes an individual talent and an organizational asset.
I would also like to add that it pays to step back every once in a while to intellectualize our thought processes and frameworks we work with. This actually requires a curious and contemplative mind, one that reflects on what happens in context. It helps putting oneself in situations where we need to debrief on lessons learned and workflows. The basic objectives being:
- promoting – raising awareness, gathering feedback and allowing cross-pollination in the process
- propping – leveraging and refining what works well, understanding trade-offs between potential an limitations
- recycling – continuing to improve upon experiences and salvaging good ideas from failures and oblivion
- navigating – assessing contexts, options, directions, and adjusting course and speed to address whether upstream or shifting environments
Moreover, for good ideas to take off persuasive communication skills and marketing tools happen to be of the essence. From an operations management standpoint, innovativeness also has to do with creating an organizational culture, a distinctive work style where guiding principles happen to be more effective than sticking to strict processes alone. The fact is that creativeness and freedom go hand by hand. By the same token, execution and discipline are inseparable.
“A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.” – Peter Tchaikovsky.
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso.
“If we knew what we were doing, we wouldn’t call it research.” – Albert Einstein.
“An innovator in a general sense, is a person or an organization who is one of the first to introduce into reality something better than before. That often opens up a new area for others and achieves an innovation.” – Wikipedia.
“Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself. Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different rather than doing the same thing better.” – Wikipedia.
Most typically, those whose inventions become adopted and leveraged by others are the ones who get to be called innovators. So, innovation delivers a sense of usefulness and practicality beyond creativeness and inventiveness. Innovation also implies novelty, this means being a first in a given category or jumpstarting a new category altogether.
Some experts concurred on bullet proofing what innovation was all about by asking for evidence of a successful commercialization. However, there are a couple of issues with that. First, many of today’s innovations happen in the open source’s new brave world and, second, there are quite a few interesting things going on in not-for-profit domains. Additionally, some novelties happen to be ahead of their time and most would still think of their creators as true innovations. Furthermore, we would need to talk about those that got early adopters but did not get to cross the chasm to paraphrase Geoffrey A. More.
My preference is to look at this matter by assessing [a] whether a given item is a first, [b] if it makes a substantial difference when compared to what exists and  if it is leveraged by others and to what extent, even if they don’t happen to be the intended target users, which then becomes an accidental innovation.
Moreover, there are two ways for a new item to make a substantial enough difference: [b.1] a dramatic improvement in usability, technical and/or business performance, which qualifies as an incremental innovation, or [b.2] a game changer that delivers something that’s unique, something that we would not entertain doing without, which qualifies as a disruptive innovation.
Anyway, in case you wondered why this blog’s title. I think that there are many people who are not necessarily innovators, yet they are fans of: freedom, creative thinking, thought provoking and forward looking concepts, risk taking and the entrepreneurial spirit that challenges, bends, breaks, displaces and even creates new rules.
However, I’m not certain about a word that exists in the English language to galvanize this community. Otherwise, please let me know. In the meantime, I am proposing innovarista for anyone devoted to practicing, researching, evangelizing or, to put it simply, anyone interested in the invention and innovation phenomenon with passion.