Creating More “Innovative Thinking”
We hear a lot about the need to be more innovative in business these days in what is often described as a fast-changing world that may leave us behind if we don’t. But the word innovation is not that well understood or defined in many people’s mind and in this brief article we therefore want to take a closer look.
The Marketing guru Theodore Levitt suggested that creativity is thinking up new things while Innovation is doing new things. This is not a bad start but it doesn’t say much about innovation itself. The management writer Peter Drucker is therefore more helpful here when he said “Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. It is the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.” Innovation then is at the practical end of innovation (and clearly involves both good execution of an idea and the capacity to potentially make money from it), but can we go even further and describe what kind of activities it covers?
As the mind map at the top of this article indicates, although it is by no means exhaustive, we can perhaps usefully say that innovation has 10 “realms” as follows:
Innovative Categories: This covers new concepts or ideas such as Strategic, Tactical or Operational innovation at different levels in an organization or “PESTEL” categories covering Political, Economic, Social, Technological Environmental and Legal. Innovation may be different in all of these categories.
Innovative Ideas: This covers new specific ideas about innovation and how it occurs from academic disciplines such as psychology, sociology and neuro-science (and left/right hemisphere thinking) to how ideas can arise in the imagination or as the result of asking well-crafted questions, for example.
Innovative Thinking: This covers the ways in which we might encourage people to come up with new innovations or “shape” their thinking or perhaps give it “guidelines”. Examples here include creative, lateral and agnatical thinking but also includes thinking approaches like “humble inquiry” and “child-like thinking”.
Innovative Tools: This covers the tools that are often used to help open-up innovative thinking. Edward De Bono’s “Six-hat thinking” process, Tony Buzan’s “Mind-mapping” technique and Kurt Lewin’s “Force-field analysis” method are all popular examples here, as is the most popular tool of all in organizations – “innovation brainstorming”.
Innovative Processes: Like tools, processes are often applied to help guide and open up innovation thinking but are usually more of a “flow” of tasks for a group of people to experience sequentially or follow closely. Action leaning, Critical thinking, Appreciative inquiry and Asking What, Where, Why, Who, When and How (5W/H) are all examples of such processes.
Innovative Types: Innovation has many types and within the types it includes many forms. This includes Technology innovation, Marketing innovation, Organizational innovation and Process Innovation etc.
Innovative Technology: Innovation is often thought about synonymously with technological advances in recent years and there are many examples of this including drones, Solar energy, Robotics, Nanotechnology, 3D printing and many others.
Innovative Activities: Famously innovation activities or outcomes have been many over the centuries and serve as an illustration of a disruptive change. Old examples here are the wheel or the plough, which transformed human life but modern examples are the engine, plane/rocket flight and the computer.
Innovative People: We all have the capacity to be innovative but some people are well-known for their thinking or achievements, and in many categories including the Arts, Science and Business. Historical examples are Newton, Da Vinci and Beethoven while modern innovative people are Crick, Musk and Jobs.
Innovative Design: Last but not least, innovation can specifically relate to product or service design. This can include packaging, materials or even space (both small and large in scale).
Each of the above 10 realms of innovation helps to shine new light on the topic of innovation and perhaps give it greater depth. More importantly it allows every one of us to think about how we might expand the notion of innovation further.