Six Innovation Insights

This morning we were with a Leadership Team as they defined the behaviors that support their culture. One of their core culture attributes is innovation. It was interesting to hear the discussion about the beliefs and behaviors that bring innovation to life.
That inspired us to share these six key innovation insights:

  1. You Must DO It – According to, innovation is “the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value.” If it’s a process, that means it can be learned. It’s also an action, which means that coming up with new ideas is not really innovation – that’s brainstorming. Bottom line is that innovation is the act of taking something that exists and combining, changing or repurposing it. For example, the circus existed for decades. Cirque du Soleil was an innovation that took the idea of a circus, combined it with live music, and created a show with costumes and a storyline that made people rather than animals the focus.
  2. Make it Safe – Innovation doesn’t come from labs or special groups of people working in a remote location.  A safe space is essential to innovation. Create a culture and environment where there is minimal fear of expression, risks are encouraged, and people learn from failure. That allows innovation to flourish.
  3. Change Your Approach – ask better questions and you’ll create the mental stimulus which makes new connections. Just asking people for their best ideas or asking them to think outside the box, reduces the quality of potential solutions. You need to expand the box or look in a different box.
  4. Get Out More –  Innovation comes from seeing things in new ways. If you and your team don’t get out and explore more, you don’t have access to insights that fuel innovation. It’s amazing how many things we’ve seen in Europe that served as the seed of an idea which created something new to the US. In Spain we saw the castle that is reputed to have inspired Walt Disney to create the Magic Castle. Whether it’s through travel, reading or talking with people (who have different perspectives than you!) it’s essential to give your brain lots of ideas that can be combined in practical, value-creating ways.
  5. Value it All, Big and Small – too much attention is paid to disruption and breakthrough. Little ideas that are translated into action can have big impacts. Don’t over emphasize the importance of transformative ideas, they all matter.
  6. Don’t Be Confused – Innovation is NOT invention. Innovation is about improving or combining something that exists in new ways. Invention is about creating or discovering something that never existed. Another way to understand innovation is the practical application of newly recombined knowledge, often from multiple domains, to produce useful effects. The iPod was an innovation not an invention. It combined music storage capabilities with the dial functionality of a padlock.

Innovation matters to organizations today because it’s how to stay relevant in the changing world.  So, apply an insight and increase your innovation!

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