Creating Innovation

Innovation is critical to the competitive success of virtually all companies.

Innovation is critical to the competitive success of virtually all companies. Whether you’re on the leading edge or following an imitation strategy, innovation is the only sustainable competitive advantage. Creativity and innovation are often used as synonymous terms, which is unfortunate because there is much more to true innovation than being creative.

Creativity is Not Innovation

Innovation is the transformation of creative ideas into tangible, practical products, services or business practices. Those ideas can come from inside your firm, or they can be ideas that have been successfully adapted from elsewhere. The key is understanding that even the best ideas are meaningless until and unless they are actually implemented.

Unfortunately, knowledge alone doesn’t necessarily or automatically lead to the actions required to result in implementation. An unimplemented idea is meaningless and useless. Given the critical importance of innovation, it’s imperative that companies find a predictable, repeatable process that can ensure dependable innovation.

Remember, coming up with the idea is only the beginning. It’s not an innovation until it is reduced to practice. Substantial evidence from theoretical, as well as from real-world research, demonstrates that effective and efficient innovation requires the joint efforts of a team of people. Managing the interactions of these diverse people to ensure a profitable result is complex. You must match the knowledge, expertise, thinking styles, action-taking methods and risk aversion of the available pool of people to a process that can ensure execution of the innovation.

Innovation is a Process

To achieve success in managing for innovation, you must acknowledge that innovation is a process. Further, to be successful, a method must be identified to manage that process and the people involved. Integrating the right set of people skills into a proven process results in effective innovation.

So what is a proven innovation process? Investigation into innovation methods has evolved a technique for describing a four-step process that results in innovation. The four steps can be described as: 1) creating, 2) advancing, 3) refining, and 4) implementing. Each step is discrete and necessary to ensure innovation occurs.

To move an idea through each of these four steps so that an innovation results, requires matching the “right” people with each step of the process. These people must have the knowledge and expertise required to perform the needed tasks. That’s no real revelation and is usually not the problem. The difficult piece of the puzzle involves thinking style and action-taking method.
By thinking style, we do not mean IQ, but rather how you process information. By action-taking method, we don’t mean whether you do or do not take action, but again, how you go about it.

Putting it Together

Finding people with the needed combination of knowledge, expertise, thinking style and action-taking method is always a challenge. Until recently, the problem was further compounded by an inability to accurately understand a person’s true proclivity for each role in the process.

Recently, a very low cost, self-scoring instrument was developed that accurately and repeatably identifies our natural and best role in this process. Armed with an understanding of the process, and an ability to match people to process requirements, should naturally result in more successful innovation in your company.

You can take charge of innovation in your company and improve the likelihood of success. The requirement is not to be perfect, but only to be better than your competitors and better every day. Thinking about it as a people-driven process is a key to success.

Mitch Goozé is a partner with Customer Manufacturing Group, a marketing consulting company. He can be reached at 408-987-0140 or at mgooze@customermfg.com.