Innovation ideally should be “Simplifying complexity”, but unfortunately it is turning up to “Complexifying simplicity”.
We live in an exciting time of unprecedented change across a multitude of dimensions. In this ever-changing environment, Innovation is one of the most popular buzzword globally. Innovation has become an essential marketing tool for the organisations to position their products and services.
Understanding what the word Innovation really means, has been a consistent challenge with many. Rather, have been entangled in all the variations, nuances, tools, techniques, models, frameworks, and paradigms of innovation.
So what was once a simple notion — the idea of systematically finding, encouraging, and implementing new ideas — has become horribly complex.
Innovation ideally should be “Simplifying complexity”, but unfortunately it is turning up to “Complexifying simplicity”. Lamentably, by complexifying innovation, we’ve probably started to kill it.
The starting point for simplexifying innovation is to refocus on its most basic dictionary definition:
“the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods.”
Evolutionary improvements are not Innovation
One of the ways that we’ve flubbed up innovation is by letting almost any kind of change fall under the umbrella of innovation, whether it is a small process improvement, an add-on service or an emotional campaign. These are all good things, but they should be part of the normal course of business and the drive for evolutionary improvement. Innovation however, needs to be truly new, discontinuous, disruptive, and value creating. So let’s stop putting small “operational,” “incremental,” and “adjacent” improvements under the innovation umbrella.
Having a clear path to new ideas is what helps make innovation work.
- Ideation : Need to continuously generate a lot of ideas based on response from internal and external sources
- Design : Need to design few ideas that have the potential to solve problems for customers and be commercially viable
- Experimentation : Need to quickly develop prototypes and models that can be tested both in the laboratories and with customers
- Incubation : Need to iteratively refine the innovations, and make decisions about whether to fail or scale, based on pilots and additional tests
There are variations on these activities, and lots of specific tools that can be utilized, but the basic steps are pretty similar. Most of the Innovation centric courses that have sprouted at B-schools, innovation centers, and research labs, they all have the similar basic flow. Unfortunately, in the rush to capitalize on the current interest in innovation, consultants and academics have created all sorts of esoteric language and secret hand signals that make the process more complicated than it needs to be. That doesn’t mean that innovation is easy — just that it doesn’t have to be a black box that can only be unlocked by a wizard or guru.
Innovation not necessarily always means finding new things, creating new process or adding new things. Sometimes Innovation does not means moving forward but coming backward.