Friday, December 12, 2008

Seven rules for innovation

Unless you’ve been living in a wifi-proof bubble over the last few years, you’ve been inundated with articles, podcasts, blogs, emails, conferences and tweets about innovation. If you work for a large company like I do, you’ve also been subjected to a swarm of consultants, all of whom are eager to share their unique point of view or proprietary methodology to drive your business.

If you are perfectly happy with your innovation output, please stop reading this right now. In fact, stop reading everything. Your time is way too important to waste on reading. Go and invent the teleporting machine or the sock that cannot be lost.

But if you’re feeling as I am that in spite of the plethora of truly thoughtful academics, consultants and practitioners, we have not yet achieved a satisfactory level of proficiency in innovation, please read on.

After about an eight-year career in consulting and line-marketing, I moved into a dedicated staff innovation role. I have spent the past year trying to develop cross-business innovation opportunities and create a more innovative culture. It is a role that is exciting and frustrating – for the same reasons. To do it well, one must be able to simultaneously respect the realities of the current business environment and see through those realities and assumptions to the world that could exist if someone had the courage and wisdom to lead the way forward.

I am not yet doing it well. If I were, I would be too busy spending my obscene bonus or giving keynote addresses at posh boondoggle conferences. Like many, if not most, innovation practitioners, I am still struggling to better understand the concept of innovation, the barriers, and the means of avoiding or circumventing them. Through the course of my struggles, I have had a few ideas that I think can help us cut through some of the confusion or move past some of the old ways of thinking that encumber our innovation efforts. I have organized these thoughts into seven rules – three dos and four don’ts. Most of these thoughts come from earlier blog posts. I hope that gathering them together in this way will add value for my fellow innovators.

Starting today, I will publish one rule a day. I hope you find them interesting and inspiring. And if you have your own rules to add, I would love to hear them.

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