Tuesday, June 29, 2010

All I Really Need To Know About Innovation I Learned In Kindergarten

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

Share – share with colleagues. Share with customers. Even share at times with would be competitors. Innovations depend on it. Dare to share.

Create stuff together – collaboration is a fundamental element to innovation success.

Don’t cry over spilled milk – accidents happen. Sometimes great innovations are the result of accidents.

Flush the toilet when you’re done – not everything that you create is useful. Sometimes it’s best to just flush it away and wash your hands.

Take snack breaks – nourish yourself – mentally, physically, and spiritually. It will give you added energy and boost your long-term innovation success.

Make time for a nap – burning the candle at both ends for too long is detrimental to your process. Everybody needs a break at some point to recharge.

Go outside to play – simply sitting behind a desk (or in front of computer) is not an ideal way to learn and create. Change your perspective. Get some fresh air.

You can build great things in a sandbox – iteration and experimentation are keys to a great innovation process. If something doesn’t work, or you and your customer simply don’t like it, knock it down and build something else.

Don’t be afraid to get dirty – whether you deliberately get dirty while finger painting or sculpting with clay, or simply fall down by accident on the playground during some sort of game, don’t be afraid to get dirty. Innovation is a hands-on endeavor. You can always wash-up later.

Learn the bus driver’s name – there are people along your innovation journey that know the way and can take you places. Get to know them.

Bullying is not okay – just because someone might be bigger, stronger, or louder doesn’t automatically make his or her idea any better than yours.

Make friends with the new kids – despite our inherent fear of everything new, new things have much to offer us. Befriend new people and new ideas.

Actions speak louder than words – Innovate is a verb.

See Spot Run – observe what’s going on around you, with customers, with competitors, with colleagues.

Curious George is awesome – I’d not suggest sniffing ether (or even smoking a pipe) as Curious George has done, but don’t be afraid to explore your world.

Following the leader gets you where everyone else is going – if you’d really like to go where everyone else is going instead of forging new paths, feel free to follow the leader. But don’t expect this path to lead to innovation.

Taking care of classroom plants and animals is a group endeavor – innovation, like watering plants and taking care of classroom pets, is everyone’s responsibility.

Learning should be fun – innovation is learning. Have fun with it.

The future is filled with possibility – don’t ever forget this.


jeffbake said...

Many great insights here which are consistent with my experience.

However, the idea that “innovation is everyone’s responsibility” is something I’ve found to be a harmful over-simplification, for a couple of reasons.

First, when something becomes everyone’s responsibility, it too often ends up being no one’s responsibility. Better to say that “everyone has a role to play in innovation”. This role differentiation is critical to success. While nearly everyone may expect to contribute to idea generation and new concepts to address unmet need, a relative few in the organization need to be responsible for setting the bounds and guardrails for a given innovation initiative (e.g. strategic priorities, prioritized list of unmet customer need, etc.). It’s counter-productive to have too many competing views on unmet needs and priorities.

Second, executives can often fall into this trap of generalities, in effect abdicating their own specific role in fostering innovation success. Simply asserting innovation as a corporate priority, saying it’s “everyone’s” responsibility, or touting high-level metrics like 10% growth or 30% of revenue coming from new products is not enough. This may unleash a lot of enthused, even frenetic activity, but not lead to success.

To fulfill their role, executives must be clear about the evaluation criteria and hurdles by which new ideas, technologies and product concepts will be judged. This funnels the firm’s collective creative energy, increasing both efficiency and likelihood of market success.

C. Engdahl said...

Very good point, Jeff.

Ralf Lippold said...

Allowing people to play in the "sandbox" for defined time (pretty much as Google does) and letting the door open to new stuff will enable the outbreak of ideas that make sense for the business.

Leaders have probably to step back more than today from the creative process that is happening in front of them.

Edgar Schein's new book "Helping" has some helpful insights on that.

Many thanks for sharing your useful thoughts/ statements that are very true indeed.

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