A Time for Innovation, General Topics, Leadership

Why is Innovation often “hit or miss?”

By: Dr. Greg McLaughlin, VP, Global Targeting

This question has baffled many executives for quite some time. We all recognize innovation such as Apple’s I Pad without understanding how that innovation came about. Management tries to replicate the special event or circumstances that created the innovation but often fail. Companies have created positions such as Chief Innovation Officer, innovation teams, and organizational strategies that promote innovation through diversity, team dynamics and social networking. However, failure rates of 90% are common when innovations occur due purely to chance.

So, what is the key to successful innovation? Is it more allocated funds, more opportunities for good ideas to permeate the organization or is it better leadership and management practices? Although all these strategies are helpful, it is clearly not the answer to this baffling question. What sustains innovation in an organization is clarifying the meaning of innovation and applying this comprehension within the organization.

From our research at Global Targeting, we are finding that individuals define and clarify innovation into three separate but related components. The first component, a very traditional element of innovation, is a new product or service. That is, something different that has not existed previously. The second component is innovation that comes from improvement in product (service), process or procedure. The third component is innovation through change. Change refers to replacing what has existed with something different. What is fascinating is that for whatever cultural group studied, our research validates these three dimensions of innovation.

Diversity in the workforce is certainly a change occurring in the workforce that can lead to innovation. Think of innovation as portrait that individuals view and interpret. Each person views innovation and interprets its meaning with a unique perspective. The complexity in understanding innovation, at the individual level is that different people assign different importance and significance to these unique characteristics. There is, in fact, a diversity of perception in defining innovation. This diversity of perception is one of the compelling reasons why innovation is so often “hit or miss.” Therefore, defining innovation and aligning individuals to the perceived definition and desired outcome is critical for success.

In conclusion, for innovation to be successful beyond a “hit or miss” rate, leaders must accept the diversity of perception regarding innovation and find the tools that align individuals to desired outcome. Otherwise, chaos will persist and innovation is more a discrete event than a planned and managed function.

Come visit with Dr. Vinny Caraballo, Tony Bynum, Lino Carrillo, and myself on Wednesday afternoon at session W3-H, Beyond Diversity: Selecting Individuals/Teams to Maximize Innovation, so that we can share our insights with you. To get you ready for the session, look for some of our team members to post a few tidbits in this site. In the meantime, visit this site http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/88f3aa78#/88f3aa78/29 to read some more of our work. See you at the Forum.

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