What is innovation? How does one recognize it? Will I know it when I see it?
The term innovation means a new way of doing something. It may refer to incremental, radical, and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes, or organizations. A distinction is typically made between invention, an idea made manifest, and innovation, ideas applied successfully.
Here’s a Booz, Allen & Hamilton book review of “The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation” (Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi, authors) that offers an interesting perspective:
The authors disapprove, for example, of the widespread American practice of benchmarking, in which companies keep a scorecard on their competitors’ business practices to stay a step or two ahead of them. This, the Japanese would say, leads to incremental improvement, not to true creativity or knowledge creation. In a Japanese company, knowledge is thought to be internally generated from basic principles laid out by top management, then improved on by brainstorming from within the ranks and finally some amount of feedback from external sources.
A U.S. use-case example of the above is the development of the 3M Post-it note:
The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company…gives its researchers time to play around in the lab and then to “socialize” knowledge by using the office as a beta-testing site. Co-workers were skeptical when one researcher passed around his innovation, little pads of sticky-backed yellow paper. But the Post-it was the future, and it worked.
This line of reasoning resonates throughout Rob Hahn’s post insurgent marketing: as the main brand players in an industry focus on carpet bombing their competitors, insurgent type marketers exploit weaknesses. Similarly, Seth Godin touches on this concept when he references “heretical marketing.” Finally, Matthew Ferrara hits on this concept too.
Innovation cannot be trained, but it can be fostered in terms of firms encouraging the development of creative knowledge environments (the 3M example above is illustrative of this). What are you doing to foster innovation in your firm?
Photo credit: IH (40)