Sometimes innovation arises from necessity. Other times from choice. Regardless, the goal is progress and the outcome is change. Change in terms of invention, creating something entirely new, or change in terms of incrementation, improving something already existing. We consider innovation successful if it results in a measurably positive impact.
Innovation takes many forms. It can be a noun (i.e. an innovation) or an adjective (i.e. innovative), and can describe a product, service, idea, process, mindset, theory, artistic expression, approach, strategy, individual, team, company, etc. It’s also used as a verb (i.e. to innovate) when labeling an action. There’s a widespread desire, economically speaking, to promote and incentivize innovation in order to reap its many benefits.
How Does Innovation Happen?
The first step in evaluating innovation is to determine if the innovation being considered is an invention or an incrementation? Simply put and in “product” terms, is it the first iPhone ever created or is it the most current iPhone iteration?
The thought process, which includes the questions needing to be answered, is fairly straightforward and similar in both scenarios:
What will it cost?
How long will it take from ideation to deployment?
Who needs to be involved?
What is the end-to-end process?
Is the timing right?
What is the expected return on investment (ROI)?
How will it be marketed?
How will it be sold and purchased?
How will it be protected (i.e. IP)?
However, innovation begins before all of those questions with the idea itself and the associated ‘why’.
If it’s an invention:
What does the world need that it doesn’t currently have…and why?
Does demand exist for it already or will the invention create its own demand…and why?
Is the invention feasible to create…and why doesn’t it already exist?
If it’s an incrementation:
What exists that can be improved upon…and why?
Does the world know the incrementation is an option and is it desired…why or why not?
Is the incrementation feasible…and why hasn’t it been done already?
Innovators, whether they be individuals, teams or companies, are special. In their own unique ways, they’re answering the invention or incrementation questions as they innovate. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Innovativeness is built on a foundation which is the innovation intersection.
What is the Innovation Intersection?
Innovation is the intersection of creativity and motivation (see Intersection 8 image below). These are the ingredients that feed the recipe for all types of innovation. Without creativity innovation is boring. Without motivation innovation doesn’t happen.
Creativity is the illumination within innovation. Its outcome is the ‘what’ and ‘how’.
What is the innovation?
How is it brought to life?
Creativity is the recognition that a better option exists. It’s the ability to not only envision that option, but also to make it relevant in the appropriate context. Creativeness doesn’t end with the idea (i.e. the ‘what’), rather it continues through implementation (i.e. the ‘how’). I’ve long admired those able to take innovation from concept to reality, whether they be artists, businesspeople or even companies.
Creativity is the secret sauce in any organization’s quest for innovation on the way differentiation.
Intersection 8: Innovation = Creativity + Motivation
Motivation is the driver of innovation. Its outcome is the ‘why’ and ‘when’.
Why is the innovation being developed?
When will it be accessible?
The reason innovation happens is because of motivation. In the innovation process the opportunity for change is recognized, a value is placed on it, thereby creating desire and / or need. Combine that sequence of events with feasibility and the components of motivation come together. There are many motivators for innovation including:
Revenue / Profit
Motivation is the spark to creativity’s flame.
What Can Leaders Do?
Leaders need to acknowledge the reality in the mantra “Innovate or Die”, especially in times of uncertainty, change or chaos. They do this by actively promoting the importance of innovation within an organization.
Make it known that creativity is valued
Use motivation to channel effort
As simple as it sounds, leaders should encourage innovative thinking and action. Explicit encouragement is very different than an intentional lack of discouragement.
Wrap Up & Up Next
Corporate innovation starts with a mindset of acceptance at the leadership level. That then permeates throughout the organization and results in a change-embracing, risk-taking enterprise, primed to innovate.
Next time we’ll examine the 9th intersection of performance, which is the Purpose Intersection.
In this series of articles, we explore The Intersections of Performance, of which there are 30. The Intersections of Performance framework is based on the experience and insights of Brett Simpson, Managing Director of Elevate Simply, over his 20+ years of leadership in large and small organizations, and as an entrepreneur, advisor and investor.