April 17, 2014
Innovation has become one of the buzz words of the 2000’s. While the term is popular and widely used, understanding the process seems to be a bit more challenging. Many myths of innovation exist, which may be playing a role in the implementation of innovation.
Myths of Innovation
“Leadership doesn’t have to be involved”
Innovation must begin with the company leadership, not the shop floor. While ideas might occur at all levels of the organization, leadership must be willing to follow with strong execution – drive an innovation into existence by organizing the company around a culture of creating new ideas.
“I just need one ‘genius’ for innovation”
Everyone thinks they just need some genius stashed away in a corner somewhere generating innovation after innovation. The truth is that teams generate innovation through a collaborative effort. Having a company culture that supports a cross-departmental team environment and innovation is key.
“There is a predetermined pathway to innovation”
Some believe there is one way to innovate – that there is some hidden blueprint for all innovation. Innovation occurs differently each time, even within one company. There is no one right way to move through the innovation process. To have a blueprint would mean you had some idea of an outcome, and innovation never guarantees an outcome.
“Every innovation should succeed”
If we had a guarantee of success for every innovation, we would not be innovating. Innovation, by nature, carries a level of risk and a chance of failure. It is important to recognize both. Company leadership needs to make sure that these two factors are recognized and that employees understand both are okay. The object of innovation processes should be to minimize risk and learn from failures, but eliminating either won’t happen.
“I need to be or have an expert in order to succeed at innovation”
Often, the best ideas come from someone outside the area of expertise. A fresh set of eyes on an idea can provide quite a bit of insight, especially if you are feeling ‘stuck’. Going into innovation with preconceived notions of how things should advance limits the possibilities. Others see the problem in different ways.
“I’ll just wake up one day with a great idea”
Innovation done right takes time, it isn’t something that you just wake up and do one day. There is a lot of passion and hard work involved in taking an idea into development. It is that passion that drives an idea through the many obstacles it will face. This one is a close cousin to the next…
“I will know a good idea when I see it”
Just because an idea ‘feels’ right doesn’t mean it is the right one to pursue. We tend to shy away from the ideas that seem a little too weird or ‘off the wall’, but those ideas are the ones that should be pursued. Those ideas make us uncomfortable because they take us into the unknown – and the unknown is the place where innovation lives.
“Innovation is about R&D and new products”
The purpose of innovation is to bring value to your customers, which may not always come in the form of a new product. Innovation is not all about products. It can be about improving a process, system or service. How can you improve the experience of your customers?
“If I immerse my entire company in innovation, we will succeed”
Innovation 100% of the time can cause stress within an organization. While change is good, so is keeping things the same. You must maintain a balance within your organization between the status quo and innovation. Too much of either one will cause strain.
There are dozens more myths of innovation, and each is just that, a myth. It feels safe to believe them because to disbelieve means you are embarking on something risky. Innovation is risky and the final myth to dispel is that you can take the risk out of innovation. You cannot. The risk lies in avoiding innovation all together.
Conclusions about Myths of Innovation
While many myths of innovation exist, it is clear that they are just that – myths – things we choose to believe in order to stay in a ‘safe’ and comfortable zone. There are productive and non-productive ways to go about innovating. The important thing is that you work toward better understanding and implementation.