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40 Innovation Principles

        posted by , February 27, 2013

Innovation springs from culture.

The Invention of Drawing
(The Invention of the Art of Drawing, Joseph Suvée)

Innovation tends to break out in clusters. A creative community feed off each other, share and build on each other's ideas — bang you've got innovation.

As much as we know about the conditions that produce innovation, it's notoriously difficult to achieve.

Most firms struggle with innovation. Stellar examples of innovative companies are few and far between.

Firms talk the talk but they don't walk the walk. As much as executives are willing to discuss innovation, few make the cultural changes required to produce it.

The first step to making innovation a priority is to establish a set of innovation principles.

Definition: Innovation Principles

Innovation Principles are an enduring set of techniques and ethics for achieving innovation that are established by an organization, program or team.


Your innovation principles will be unique to your firm. They're a fundamental part of your culture. The following examples will get you started.


1. Innovation is Our Top Priority

Explicitly make innovation a priority.


2. Change is Critical To Our Success

Resistance to change may be your biggest roadblock to innovation.


3. We Take Risks To Innovate

Complacency will damage your chances to do anything remotely creative.


4. Innovation Applies To Every Aspect of Our Business

Innovation doesn't stop at the boardroom or with your marketing department. Anyone involved in your core business should be part of it.


5. Innovation Is Long Term

Have the foresight to sponsor long term projects with large potential as long as they show sufficient progress.


6. Innovation Is Urgent

Your goal is to get innovation to market.


7. Innovation Is a Daily Habit

Give your people time every week or each day to innovate. For example, allow employees to devote one day a week to a research project of their choosing (20 percent time). Provide avenues and incentives to commercialize these projects.


8. Innovation Is Unpredictable

Innovation requires a new management approach.


9. Innovation Starts Small

Innovation is risky, don't make large investments too quickly. The biggest innovation starts with a single step.


10. Innovation Is Lean

Innovation is on a tight budget. No five course lunches on the company dime until your innovation is a commercial success.


11. Innovation Is Fast

Innovation may be long term but it's always fast.


12. Innovation Fails

If you want to innovate you can't punish a diligent attempt that fails.


13. Innovation Learns From Each Failure

Failure is a an opportunity to improve. This isn't just a cliché designed to make you feel better. Your biggest breakthroughs may emerge from failures.


14. Innovation Is Iterative

Innovation is difficult to plan upfront. Deliver a working prototype on a regular basis for validation.


15. Innovation Is Sudden and Big

It's a well known aspect of creativity and innovation. Breakthroughs often come as giant leaps forward.


16. Innovation Is Subtle

Promote a culture in which both big breakthroughs and subtle (but commercially successful) innovation get recognition.


17. Innovation Invents New Products

Don't be afraid to use the word invention.


18. Innovation Improves Existing Products

Promote a culture that values innovative improvements.


19. Innovation Improves Methods

Avoid a product focus. Innovate your methods (e.g. customer service) too.


20. Innovation Re-invents

Stop focusing on standards and best practices. Lead the best practice.


21. Innovation Says Yes

Many organizations are focused on finding reasons not to do things. Optimism and aggressiveness are the friends of innovation.


22. Innovation Leads

Promote people who innovate.


23. Innovation Isn't a Copy

Avoid focusing on the competition, you'll only end up copying them. Focus on your customers.


24. Innovation Is Trend Aware

Innovation never happens in a vacuum. It always builds on existing knowledge.


25. Innovation Is Individual

Innovation isn't necessarily a social process. Historically, many great innovations were the product of a single mind. It's important to support individual projects.


26. Innovation Is Social

Innovation is often the result of individuals feeding off each other's ideas. Encourage meetings and events that generate new ideas.


27. Innovation Is Published

Innovation needs plenty of validation. The faster it's peer reviewed the better.


28. Innovation Is Open

Consider opening your innovation for others to build upon.


29. Innovation Is Tested

Validate your innovations with data. Get a prototype in front of customers as fast as you can.


30. Innovation Is Re-interpreted

Allow everyone in your organization the opportunity to build upon your innovations.


31. Innovation Begins in Intuition

This addresses the creative process itself. Intuition is underrated in many organizations. Allow your people to follow an idea without a business case.


32. Innovation Begins in Free Thought

Do your people feel that they can express their creative thoughts in a meeting? Or do they play it safe? Are politics and oneupmanship disrupting your chances at innovation?


33. Innovation Plays

Play is widely considered essential to creative thought and innovation.


34. Innovation Rests

Over-focus can be blinding and counterproductive. Innovation often comes after taking a walk or having a nap. This phenomena is known as incubation. Establish a culture that respects rest.


35. Innovation Focuses

Innovation needs a quiet place to focus on ideas for long periods of time. There's no need to make your office an entertainment complex.


36. Innovation Is Supported

Innovation requires support from leadership who can clear barriers.


37. Innovation Is Rewarded

Develop a clear reward program for innovation and communication it.


38. Innovation Complies With The Law

Innovation requires trust. If you allow your employees to run their own research projects, it's important that they understand legal compliance issues.


39. Innovation Is Ethical

If you provide your people with more freedom to invent it's a good idea to provide an ethical framework.


40. Innovation Is Guided by Your Mission

Innovation aligns with your business model. If you're a grocery store chain, you don't need your people designing aircraft.


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