Teach a man to innovate, he'll create value for a lifetime
Few people ever learn "how" to innovate, we are just expected to innovate based on the knowledge and skills we already possess. Teaching a person to innovate often seems difficult or disingenuous. However, until we provide the insights, methods and skills, what we are basically asking people to do is use the same old skills they've had to solve new and different problems. Hopefully that will raise your eyebrows and make you go "hmmm".
Another challenge that always crops up in an innovation program (and did with the MBA program innovation challenge) was that there were few definitions of what "innovation" meant or what the goals and outcomes were meant to be. There was a concern about "constraining" innovation if we set clear objectives or goals. This, in my opinion, is one of those issues that "everybody" knows and is 100% wrong. For true innovation success, you need to - you must - constrain innovation by providing clear goals and expectations of success and scope. Otherwise it is almost impossible to innovate successfully. Here's why.
If you ask someone to solve a problem using tools and methods they understand and are comfortable with, they may not need a lot of problem definition. They can solve a general problem using tools they understand. However, to create something entirely new, risky and disruptive using tools they aren't comfortable with given unclear goals and expectations, you can see why this is very likely to fail. Innovation is usually about creating something new or different (risky and uncertain) using tools and methods that most people have little training on or understanding. So, we've asked people to do new stuff with tools they are at best unfamiliar with. Should we also ask them to create these ideas in the absence of good scope or defined outcomes? If we don't provide clear goals and strategic objectives, we can assume that the team will define those for itself, and they'll fall back on what seems safe and reasonable. So what we'll get if we are lucky is relatively obvious answers and we'll then assume that innovation is ineffective or the tools and methods don't work. WRONG! What failed is the lack of clear objectives and the knowledge of the tools and methods.
Rather than worry about constraining innovation, teach people the tools and methods and define for them the goals and objectives of the exercise. Then they'll be able to generate really interesting and relevant ideas. To get new kinds of thinking to solve new and interesting problems, we need to leverage new tools and methods to think differently. Since the scope of possibilities is so broad, we need to provide scope to constrain that thinking, so the teams can focus their work and become effective.