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Innovation: What is the best way to ignite the innovative culture until the last person of an organization?

“Innovation is seeing

What everybody has

Seen and thinking

What nobody has

Thought”.

~ Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi

It seems that everywhere you go, you will find someone spruiking the benefits of Innovation, and usually for a good reason.  Innovation is the new fuel for modern-day business success, and without it, the business will surely stagnate. Many companies world-wide recognized this decades ago, and as a result, R&D (Research and Development) departments were born to take advantage of Innovation.  However, modern business has shown that R&D embracing innovation alone is not enough anymore.  The innovation culture needs to be embraced by the whole organization, not just one or two areas within.  So now, the question is how to ignite that culture for everyone within the company?

Why we need Innovation?

With the world around us moving at break-neck speed, Innovation has never been more critical to both business and individuals.  Looking at several of the world’s largest companies, a common pattern soon emerges.  For Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix, Innovation is truly at the heart of their success, with their combined revenue now equal to Japan’s Gross domestic product (GDP).  This is the testimony that whichever company embraces Innovation will undoubtedly rule the rest of the 21st century. It is not an option anymore, but rather a necessity.

First, what is not Innovation?

It should be no surprise that most enterprises are trying to create an innovative culture at the company grass-roots level. As a scrum master, coach, leader or whatever role you perform, you should be innovative in your position and know how to invoke the innovative culture for the people you lead.

Before I explain Innovation, I want to clarify two specific terms that are often misunderstood by most as being Innovation.  This causes some to conclude they are either not smart enough to innovate or go in the wrong direction entirely without ever seeing the results or benefits of the innovations.

Those terms are invention and creativity. The invention is the act of inventing something that hasn’t existed before. For example, the wheel or lightbulb. It needs lots of expertise and a tremendous amount of time to create something new for the first time.

The next term is creativity. It means any novel, wild or an audacious thought which doesn’t actually have to be feasible. For example, dreaming of living on the planet Pluto is just a creative thought without any feasibility of making it happen (at least for now). 

Then, what is Innovation?

There are many definitions for Innovation, but the best possible and most straightforward explanation I could find is as follows:

“Innovation is an idea that has been transformed into practical reality. For a business, this is a product, process, or business concept, or combinations that have been activated in the marketplace and produce new profits and growth for the organization.”

In simple terms, it is connecting two existing dots (ideas or process or steps or activities or object, etc.) to find a better solution for your problem. For example, “Wheels on the suitcase” is an innovation. The wheel was invented over a thousand years ago, and the suitcase was invented probably over 200 years ago. Still, someone thought of connecting these two dots, which revolutionized travel around the world.

Companies build their entire business on the known dots. This we know as status quo—business as usual. One day, someone comes along and sees one or more dots beyond the commonly agreed upon dots. The dots that others missed, dots that are ignored, dots that others have long forgotten about. Some like and appreciate these new dots and celebrate the new discovery, liking how things currently are uncomfortable with everyday dots. However, some protest these new dots, and some even claim they are invalid or worse, imaginary dots that do not even exist. Yet it is these new dots that potentially change everything.

But what is the source of these new dots, notions, unexpected connections, ideas, possibilities and imagination? Many of today’s common dots were at one time uncommon and newly introduced dots.  So, what is Innovation?  Those other dots, the ones others missed, having the certainty of knowing that the dots you see are not only valid but necessary the world has to move forward.

Conclusion:

There is a perception that Innovation is not for everyone. I am not smart enough to innovate, or I don’t have the luxury of time in my role to innovate. I think this notion comes from people who do not understand the difference between Invention and Innovation. As we saw above, Innovation is nothing but connecting two dots to get better results. If you are already performing a role, you are already expert in knowing the known dots and possibly the dots that have not been connected before. Your job is merely seeing how you can connect them to make the world a better place to live. When you introduce Innovation to your enterprise, anything really is possible…