Secrets of innovation revealed
Herewith, the highly classified secrets of successful innovation:
- There are no secrets
- Always emphasize that there are secrets
- If questioned, defend the fact that there are secrets
- Otherwise average humans will be able to innovate
- When in doubt, refer to the first
- And so on
Now, everyone wants for there to be secrets. If there are "secrets" then the average person can be excused for not innovating, since there is knowledge or insight that they lack and can't acquire. That knowledge is intentionally kept from them. To believe this assertion stretches all bounds of thinking. Simply check out all of the books written about innovation - there are hundreds, from Christensen to von Hippl to Tucker to Chesbrough to Phillips! And more on the way all the time. There is a wealth of information available about innovation. If there were any secrets, certainly a publisher would have paid top dollar to publish that book.
But if by secrets we mean "shortcuts", then we get to the real heart of the question. Typically when people seek innovation "secrets" they've been confronted by the actual work involved in innovating, and are certain there must be an easier way. They seek the secrets that will smooth the rough roads and provide a straighter, simpler path. The work associated with innovation, especially for a team that is not full time, is simply new, different and daunting. Certainly there must be another path. So the secrets we search for are those that will cut corners, simplify the work and ensure success. There are no shortcuts.
Innovation is the combination of insight and creativity at the front end, combined with evaluation, selection, testing and market launch at the "back" end. Some firms excel at the first, more creative capabilities. Some firms excel at the latter, more executional capabilities. The really innovative firms excel at both. If there is a secret to innovation, it is that the two capabilities must both be optimized and working in synch. These two capabilities are often diametrically opposed, as "creative" types aren't good at execution and process-oriented folks aren't good at creativity and insight. Simply because your firm is operationally strong doesn't by definition mean it must be weak from a creativity standpoint. These are learnable, acquirable skills! And the same is true in reverse.
Sorry to say that there are no innovation secrets. All of the information you need was developed by Edison, and Osborn, and a host of other thinkers early in the 20th century. Later work by Christensen et al has simply extended their work. Everything you need to know is on display at your library. There is no list of innovation secrets on the back of the Declaration of Independence, or a Rosetta stone waiting to be deciphered. The information, as they say, is "out there". There are no hidden secrets to dramatically reduce the effort associated with an innovation project. If there were, don't you think we'd all place less emphasis on innovation?