Ryan Jacoby of gave a talk at last year called Leading Innovation: Process Is No Substitute. It points to the tensions found in companies between “right-brainers” espousing design, design thinking and user-centered approaches to innovation, and “left-brainers” – the more spreadsheet-minded among us, who pay good money to Industrial Design consultancies to implement concepts and processes throughout their organisations.
Jacoby’s general point is that processes are all well and good, but they don’t guarantee innovation and in some cases might even provide a false sense of security. His lecture outlined The Seven Deadly Sins of innovation:
1: Thinking the answer is in here, rather than out there
We all get chained to our desks and caught up in email, Jacoby said, “But the last time I looked, no innovation answers were coming over my Blackberry.” You have to get out of the office, out of the conference room and be open to innovation answers from unexpected places. (Jacoby takes a photograph every day on the way to work, as a challenge to remember to look around him.)
2: Talking about it rather than building it
We [in the US] live in a land of meetings and memos and lots and lots of discussion. Sometimes it’s all this talk might prevent us from actually doing anything. Jacoby gave an example of an idea to bring “fun into finance” by showinga mocked-up scenario of a guy buying a pair of trainers – at which point a virtual avatar danced on his credit card. Practical? That’s not the point. The unpolished prototype motivated the team and got them thinking differently.
3: Executing when we should be exploring
“This is huge for management types,” Jacoby said, going on to warn of the problem of trying to nail down a project too early in the process. “Who’s exploring? Who’s executing? Where is everyone in the process?”
4: Being smart
“If you’re scared to be wrong, you won’t be able to lead innovation or lead the innovation process,” Jacoby said. This is hugely significant. Innovation is all about discussing new ideas that currently have no place in the real world. If you’re only comfortable talking about things that don’t strike you as alien, the chances are you’re not talking about real innovation.
5: Being impatient for the wrong things
Innovation takes time, but too often executives expect unrealistic results at an unrealistic speed. Be explicit about the impact that you expect.
6: Confusing cross-functionality with diverse perspectives
IDEO is an inter-disciplinary firm, mixing-up employees with a whole host of backgrounds. That’s different from teams that simply mix-up functions – and critical to ensuring a better chance at innovation. “Diversity is key for innovation,” said Jacoby.
7: Believing process will save you
Here, Jacoby showed an image of vendors touting their wares at the Front End of Innovation conference in Boston. His point: you can’t simply buy your way to a soaring innovation strategy. Some of these products might be useful, but they’re no substitute for real thought leadership. Or, as he put it, “learn the process, execute the process, and then lead within it.”
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