How to Innovate – Going Beyond The Box

My friend Antonio Ventura at Indra in Portugal gave me a call this weekend & we got to talking about innovation. Everyone and his mother these days has their own definition for the word innovation, and being a practical fellow I particularly like “new stuff that is made useful”. After all, if the bright idea isn’t useful then what’s the use of the invested brain matter in coming up with it in the first place?

Whenever I’ve had an innovation discussion with a client or colleague, I’ve always found it necessary to get beyond the whole outside the box buzz. It’s much more than thinking outside the box, and actually has much more to do with thinking outside of the building. As human beings, whether we like it or not, modern psychology proves that as imitative animals we’re conditioned by the environment that surround us. Therefore logic dictates that if you’ve got to come up with something new, you’ve got to look outside of yourself & your company if you want to truly innovate.

This isn’t to say that you can’t innovate within the gardened walls of your organization, but rather that if you’re looking to increase the probability & significance of disruptive innovation, then you’re better to get outside assistance.

Antonio reminded me of how we innovated back at HP when we took a historically accepted cost center & made it a profitable venture within 90 days. We then extended that thinking into other departments creating collateral impact that significantly improved customer satisfaction, loyalty & spend. As a consequence it even made  sales processes easier. HP actually had all of the right people within their structure to come to the same conclusions we came to, with the exception that as an external resource I was not boxed in by company culture or corporate regulations. In fact, I was better able to respect & serve these by leveraging sample best practices utilized at other organizations. With these independent success stories HP’s ears perked up & listened, followed by giving us the necessary support to make magic happen.

Buzz words such as Open Innovation, Blue Ocean Strategy, White Space, Outside the Box, Outside the Building & Disruptive (just to name a few) are just that.. buzz (noise) unless you can find a way to collaborate with someone who’s sensory perception isn’t limited by the inner workings of your organization.

If the single most common constraint to innovation are internal perception & bias, then the 2nd most typical constraint is technology. Too often we forget that a technology in itself is merely a tool. For example, you should never lead with the technology in a product design / conceptualization process otherwise you’re constraining your possible outcome before you even get started the development process.

In summary, internal Corporate, Culture & Personal limitations will always hold you back in one way or another. Have you become the circus elephant who can’t break a flimsy rope? (see perceived limitations section in this previous post)

Getting past best practice is all about find the next-practice and that can rarely be done from within. Getting close-to-the-customer will also facilitate this innovation process, and here too don’t limit the valuable insights from a customer because you forgot to take off your organization’s lenses during your discovery work.

Simply put, qualified external experienced resources have a broader scope of independence, experience & next-practices to draw upon in order to contribute to your own innovation process that will significantly boost your organization forward.

I’d really appreciate your own thoughts on this post & welcome your comments here. After all, innovation is all about doing something new!

Remember these popular definitions;

  • Insanity: doing the same thing and expecting a different result
  • Lunacy: Expecting Different Results From The Same Behavior

What are you doing differently today?

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