Tag: Innovation

How to Boost Innovation by Recycling Existing Ideas

Recycling Existing IdeasWhen it comes to innovation, businesses can often find it seemingly impossible to generate completely new ideas. In these early stages of product development, it can sometimes seem like all of the good ideas have already been taken. However, maybe we don’t need completely new ideas; simply a reinvention of an old classic.

Mark Twain famously said in his autobiography ‘Chapters From The North’ that;

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages”.

When you apply this train of thought to innovation, it becomes apparent that some of the most successful products and services in human history were developed by recycling existing ideas.

Take the iPod for example. First launched in October 2001, Apple‘s portable music device has revolutionised how we all listen to and download music. However, what you may not know is that the iPod was initially devised by recycling an existing idea.

After all, the first portable MP3 players hit the market in 1998 and by 2001 there were over 50 different models available through which you could download and play music from your computer. What Apple did with the iPod was reinvent an existing idea; they took the core concept of an MP3 player, scrutinised the complaints that consumers had about these cumbersome and inadequate MP3 devices, and developed a new product which remedied these solutions. As Bill Fischer highlights in his ‘Innovating The iPod’ article;

“The goals articulated by the leadership were surprisingly simple, broad yet precise. For the hardware: A thousand songs in your pocket; for the software: so easy that your Mother could do it; and for the project: and on the shelves in eight months! The team could get to work without feeling constrained by the way the vision was presented – they were both totally focused and liberated at the same time!”.

The end result was a 6.5 ounce device with a 5GB hard drive that could hold 66 hours of music. This lightweight, technologically proficient reinvention of existing MP3 players was an global phenomenon that has since sold more than 400 million units since 2001.

One of the fundamental aspects of the iPod‘s success was Apple‘s ability to recycle existing ideas and expand upon them. Businesses can deploy these same principles within their own innovation strategies. First and foremost you need to identify the most popular product or service which currently exists within your field of industry and then scrutinise its strengths and weaknesses. In the case of the iPod, Apple were able to take the benefits of a portable music player and remedy the key consumer complaints such as inefficient storage space, cumbersome hardware and confusing user interfaces.

Similar innovation strategies can be noted within all fields of industry; from the technology sector to the entertainment industry. For instance, horror director George Romero is heralded by many as the innovator of the modern horror genre due to his iconic movie franchise Night of the Living Dead (1968-2009). Regarded by many moviegoers as the progenitor of modern zombie shows such as The Walking Dead, what you may not know is that Romero actually created his iconic ‘living dead’ monsters by recycling key archetypes from existing horror movies. As British actor Simon Pegg explained whilst reflecting upon Romero’s legacy;

“Romero adopted the Haitian zombie and combined it with notions of cannibalism, as well as the viral communicability characterised by the vampire and werewolf myths and so created the modern zombie”.

In this manner Romero was able to analyse the core principles of conventional movie monsters such as a vampire or werewolves, ascertain the key aspects of what made them scary, take out the tired clichés that moviegoers would expect, and create something new that would truly shock and captivate viewers in equal measure. The end result was a critical and commercial success; transforming a small-scale film with a $114,000 budget into a iconic viewing experience which grossed $12 million domestically and $18 million internationally; thus earning over 150 times its budget!

The success of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead franchise is a shining example to businesses that you do not need a massive budget to recycle existing ideas and boost innovation. Irrespective of whether you manage a start-up or a large corporation, the concept of recycling existing ideas can be achieved by carrying out targeted research within your field of industry, scrutinising the key principles of existing ideas and ascertaining their strengths and weaknesses. This practice can be achieved through brainstorming sessions which will enable you to generate a list of possible products and services which you can then test by presenting them to focus groups, conducting feedback surveys and holding one-on-one interactions with your target market.

This is where IdeaScale can help. The idea management platform utilizes crowdsourcing so that your business can suggest possible product ideas to an actively engaged community who will vote and comment upon the effectiveness of your ideas. By taking advantage of this streamlined innovation process, you can evaluate, enhance, and prioritize the ideas which are best suited for implementation in a cost-effective and highly efficient manner.

With studies showing that more than 85% of the best global brands have used crowdsourcing in the last ten years, taking advantage of these crowdsourcing resources can help your business to stay one step ahead of your industry rivals.

Ultimately, by carrying out targeted research, devising new ideas and testing them out using IdeaScale, you can efficiently take an old idea and recycle it into something with which your clients will actively want to engage and recommend to others. If you would like to learn more about the ways in which your business can boost innovation by recycling existing ideas, please do not hesitate to contact our IdeaScale team today and to subscribe to our IdeaScale mailing list.


This is a guest post authored by Amber Tanya, a writer from Kent, England. Miss Tanya has worked as a ghost writer servicing multiple international news and automotive publications. Miss Tanya also holds a First Class Honours degree in English Literature from an esteemed British University. She primarily writes technological, travel and scientific articles but is versatile and enjoys writing across a broad range of other topics. You can contact Miss Tanya at [email protected] Miss Tanya can produce outstanding content upon request and can adapt her writing style to suit the tone of your brand.

Mindfulness and Innovation

The start of a new year is so motivating. A fresh start, a new leaf – we usually enter a year with a lot of good intentions and plans to make positive changes in our lives. I know it can be tricky to stick to your resolutions, but I like making these promises to myself. This year I decided to integrate mindfulness into my life. The basic concept is simple: pay more attention to the little things in life, focus on what’s important and set aside time to be good to yourself. This can include meditation and yoga but also short exercises you can incorporate into your daily life.

So, what does mindfulness have to do with ideation and innovation? A lot more than you might think. I’m sure anyone who has done creative work of any kind has hit a mental roadblock before. Sometimes your brain just won’t let you be creative. You might be tired or overworked, experiencing a lack of sleep or just have other things on your mind.

This is where mindfulness can help you out. Take a 5-minute time out or use part of your lunch or coffee break to refuel your creativity. I would like to share three short exercises that can help you in a pinch.

Today I Noticed

Grab a piece of paper and write down the words “Today I noticed…“. Use the remaining time you set aside for this exercise to list everything that comes to mind. Don’t limit your thoughts and simply list everything and anything you noticed that day. It can be anything from a new billboard you saw out of the corner of your eye on the way to work or a coworker’s new haircut. Maybe you recently started working out and are starting to notice the first hints of a six pack? Whatever it is, write it down. This will make you focus on details and really think about things which can enhance your creativity.


Is something on your mind? Funny question, actually. If you’re like me, your mind is constantly racing and you’re always thinking about something. This exercise can help you if there is one thing in particular that you feel is blocking your creativity. Maybe it’s an argument with someone you care about or a task that is overdue. It doesn’t matter – anything can become so consuming that we can’t let our minds be free. My suggestion: draw a mind map! Write your biggest thought or worry in the middle of a piece of paper and spend just a few minutes writing down every thought connected to it. Sometimes having it all out there on a piece of paper helps see the bigger picture makes you feel lighter.

Object Focus

Pick a random object – a stapler, a paperclip or anything else that is small and within your reach. Take a piece of paper and write down as many uses for this object as you can. Again, don’t limit yourself, if you think of building a stapler fort or making a rug out of paperclips, write it down. The focus on a particular object makes it easier to come up with ideas and the openness to anything that you can think of can help reactivate your brain and your creative spirit.

These simple exercises can help a busy mind settle down and get into a creative state. The right mindset is essential to generating quality ideas. There are numerous use cases for these exercises — here are some examples:

  • Inspire your users and help them with ideation
  • Brainstorm ideas for your next campaign
  • Restore calm and focus in a noisy workshop or seminar
  • Start a prototyping workshop to bring community ideas to life

What other mindfulness practices do you use in the workplace? Do you see the relationship between mindfulness and innovation?  

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Chloe Guenther, Innovation Consultant at IdeaScale

Going for Gold: Achieving Olympic Level Innovation

“The Olympics remain the most compelling search for excellence that exists in sport, and maybe in life itself.”
– Dawn Fraser (3-time Olympic medalists)

Hundreds of the world’s best athletes parade into the stadium for the opening ceremony.  Each is smiling and waving to the crowd, celebrating having made their winter Olympic team.  As they gather in mass, you can feel the comradery begin to give way to their competitive spirt. Every participant realizes to beat the best they will have to be at their best. Their preparation and training got them this far, but the games are just beginning. And similar to your business, success depends on your people’s ability to consistently out-think, out-create, and out-perform the competition. Is your organization prepared to compete for the future? Would your organization medal in innovation or miss standing on the winner’s podium all together? To answer this question, consider how effective your enterprise is at executing these foundational innovation tasks.

Strategizing: Setting direction and priorities for innovation
Exploring: Uncovering unmet needs and significant opportunities
Generating: Creating many high potential ideas
Optimizing: Iterating and improving the value of ideas
Selecting: Making good choices among new ideas
Developing: Designing, building, and testing new products and services
Implementing: Delivering innovative solutions on time and within budget
Commercializing: Launching and scaling up new businesses

The inability to complete these tasks on a consistent basis across the enterprise and with external partners leads to low returns on your enterprise’s total innovation investment.  Typically these organizations find their pursuit of the new to be slow, haphazard, and episodic. This lack of innovation fitness is high risk in today’s hyper fast and competitive economy.  Few enterprises can afford to have their high potential ideas end up being stalled from the start, diluted beyond recognition, or crushed by an overweight bureaucracy.  Which is why measuring your fitness level and identifying gaps is a great start toward improvement and market success.

Necessary, But Not Sufficient

However, having a general understanding of your innovation capabilities is not the same as knowing how to best use them to get results.  Being fit is advantageous in all sports, but it doesn’t ensure you will be a winner.  Consider the athletic profile of different athletes and the training they do to compete.  There is a reason that weightlifters are not usually good fencers and swimmers are rarely world-class hockey players. Different sports require different capabilities and fitness programs, and so do your innovation efforts.

The Four Innovation Sports

Using the simple and practical framework described below can help you decide how best to allocate your enterprise’s time, creativity, and resources across what I call “the four sports”.  The framework divides innovation strategies along two key variables; the enterprise’s Offerings (the products, services, and experiences they provide) and their Market (the customer segments they serve).  The strategies are further refined depending on whether they are focused on Existing or New Markets and Offerings.


Level Innovation

1: Bobsledding—The primary innovation goal is to lead the core business to peak profitability over the long run by getting employees to help continuously improve performance.  With no new markets or products to develop, the bobsledder mindset and training routine is geared toward avoiding crashes and getting teammates to optimize their timed sleigh runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks ahead of the competition. Managers encourage their workforce to come up with new ways to run the current business better, faster, and cheaper.

2: Ski Jumping— The primary innovation goal is to extend product lines with incremental improvements and next generation offerings.  Think of Apple refreshing and prolonging their computer line with the colorful iMacs. Given new jumping techniques and the fact that distance records are broken on a regular basis, your enterprise cannot stop performing at a high level. The good news is you know the market so the run down the ramp is a familiar one and the muscle memory needed to gain the necessary lift and extension for your new products is well ingrained.

3: Figure Skating—The primary innovation goal is to leverage something the enterprise does well into a new space.  This pivot requires the enterprise to take its basic skating skillset and develop compelling programs to impress new judges at every round of the competition. Each set of judges will expect extraordinary levels of artistic and technical achievement in order to give the routine high marks. Think of the splash Apple made when it opened its own exclusive retail stores around the world. Companies that successfully leap and land a double axel into an adjacent market draw on their existing innovation capabilities while aggressively gathering insight into new customer needs, technology trends, and market dynamics.

4: Biathlon— The primary innovation goal is to convert breakthrough ideas into bold new products and businesses.  Here Apple really had to “think different” as they disrupted the music industry with the iPod and iTunes. Like biathlon athletes, game changing innovations typically require companies to call on a diverse set of skills (accelerate and maintain high speed on skis, navigate obstacles and uncharted territory, use riffles to shoot high potential targets, etc.). These capabilities are needed to generate novel ideas, leverage new technologies, apply new business models, attract new customers, and exploit markets that aren’t yet mature. The risk is high, but the financial returns and benefits of first mover advantage can be great.

Innovating at the Top of Your Game

“If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.”

  • Mark Spitz, Olympic swimmer

Winning in each of these sports requires a high level of innovation fitness and a sound strategy that aligns the key tasks, structure and people of your enterprise toward a common goal. I highlighted the problems and potential solutions for an out of sync organization that is not “fit for purpose” in previous articles. These writings offer details on CO-STAR or the STEP model and the advantages of taking a systematic approach to enterprise-wide innovation.

Most enterprises are heavily oriented toward bobsledding—and must continue to be, given the risk involved in adjacent and game changing initiatives. But if that natural tendency leads to neglect of more-aggressive forms of innovation, the outcome will be a steady decline in business and relevance to customers. It is the disruptive innovations that often lead to gold medal performances and spectacular growth.

Gaining a Competitive Edge

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”  

  • Wayne Gretzky, hockey icon (1978–1999)

It makes sense to survey the enterprise’s innovation ecosystem. A comprehensive assessment will reveal the strengths and weaknesses of current capabilities and how much time, effort, and money are allocated to the four sports. With a clear picture of the present, managers can more aggressively compete for the future.  They can determine if they are on target and adjust their strategies accordingly—usually by scaling back bobsledding innovation efforts to those focused on the highest-value customers, encouraging more figure skating and ski jumping into new markets, and creating conditions more conducive to breakthroughs solutions.

The companies we’ve found to have the strongest innovation track records can articulate a clear innovation strategy. They have put in place the tools and capabilities to manage the four innovation sports as parts of an integrated whole. They keep track of their overall medal count, and not just the wins in a single event.  By figuring out how to measure, monitor, and manage innovation fitness within an overall portfolio strategy, they can harness its energy and make it a reliable driver of success.

Innovation Self-Assessment

Act quickly, there is no time to wait, the Olympics are under way. Take this free survey to evaluate your organization’s current innovation capabilities. If you have questions about the survey or how to enhance your enterprise’s fitness level in time for the 2020 summer games, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected]

5 Innovation Engagement Best Practices

Innovation Engagement Best PracticesMore and more companies are inviting their employees to participate in company-wide ideation. Companies that do this contribute to overall innovation program health by ensuring a healthy top of the funnel stocked with ideas and allies.

But with this opportunity comes new challenges.  Not every innovation program has developed the communications skill set necessary to engage a global workforce or customer base in sharing ideas, developing ideas, and collaborating. And if you’re not investing in communications, then you’re not maximizing the value of your crowdsourced innovation community. You need people to see the value of participation, you need to show that you’re listening, you need to keep the dialogue alive. That’s when you see the real return on investment. That’s why we get a lot of questions about how to run a successful innovation engagement campaign.

So here are just a few innovation engagement best practices from the Innovation Strategy team here at IdeaScale:

  1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE – Be sure your message is relevant to the values and priorities of your audience
  2. GET TO THE POINT – Point the ask or most important information first. Explanation and details can follow.
  3. BE TRANSPARENT – Tell them what the need to know: Who’s asking? What will you do with my ideas? What’s expected of me? What’s in it for me?
  4. KEEP IT SHORT- People have a short attention span. So rather than packing all the information into one email, break it up in to a series of smaller messages that you distribute throughout your communication campaign. If you a one-stop-shop for all information, the best place for that is likely a ‘custom page’ on your IdeaScale community rather than an email.
  5. DIVERSIFY YOUR MESSAGE – When you make things short, you can change up the message. By using different kinds of hooks you can capture a wider audience.

Learn more about how to run a successful innovation engagement campaign. Download IdeaScale’s set of outreach best practices, which includes examples from successful innovation engagement email campaigns. 


A Deeper Look at the Psychology of Innovation

Anyone can think innovatively!

It’s easy to assume that the great innovators of history are nothing more than geniuses who win the intellectual lottery. But really, innovation is about psychology, not IQ. In order to be more innovative, it’s a matter of how you learn, how you listen, and what you do with both.


First, no innovator is an island. Often if you dig into the history of an innovation, it’s really a collection of many different ideas that culminate in a breakthrough. The computer started as a “difference engine” for navigational calculations, Charles Babbage paired that with the punched cards that, at the time, were directing industrial looms. That inspired a string of special purpose devices – analog computers – before the Navy ordered its scientists to invent one small enough to calculate how to hit a moving target with a torpedo. Nobody sat down one day and created the modern computer out of whole cloth. Being open to other industries, other disciplines, and other ideas changed our world completely.


To overcome a challenge, you have to separate yourself from your emotional investment in it. It’s easy to get emotionally invested in our work, to the point where all we can see is what we’ve committed to a problem. The science of chemistry was uncovered not by brilliant people seeking to change the world, but alchemists who spent their entire lives chasing dreams like turning lead into gold or discovering the philosopher’s stone. They were so focused on the impossible; they never noticed the amazing things they were achieving and left it to others to realize what they’d done and build on them. Be the chemist, not the alchemist.

The lightbulb is just the start of innovative thinking.


One of the most important aspects of innovation is being able to see an issue from multiple perspectives. It’s not just that you need to understand what people think about the issue, it’s that you need to ask yourself how the issues you’re considering will affect them. Great innovators are often very good at listening and paying attention to what they’re told, both directly and indirectly. Nobody is perfectly empathetic, of course, but being able to understand not just what people are telling you, but why they’re telling you it, will help with your innovation.


As we’ve mentioned before, the greatest innovations tend not to come from lone thinkers with one brilliant idea, but more often from a team working together to come up with solutions, prototype devices, and push innovation forward. This ties into empathy and how none of us have perfect empathy; the best way to fill that gap is to have a team who has that perspective. This can range from team members from different social backgrounds to members of different departments in your organization, but the right collaborators will help you refine, and redefine, ideas.

There’s a lot more to innovation, of course. Gathering data, refining ideas, idea management, and your approach to the above will define how you innovate, where you innovate and why. But by cultivating the mindset, you’ll be better set to find brilliant ideas. Ready to get started? Join our newsletter.

Can a CEO Hinder Innovation?

Leaders define their organization.

That a CEO could hinder innovation seems counter-intuitive. Isn’t a CEO’s job to lead, to pioneer even when necessary? But depending on the personality and strategy of a CEO, innovation can be harder or easier. So what do you need to know about yourself as a leader, and the leaders you work with, to better innovate?

The Personalities of CEOs

An analysis from Innovation Leader finds there are four basic archetypes of CEOs: The Visionary, the Streamliner, the Cheerleader, and the Advocate. The good news is that all embrace certain forms of innovation while challenging others. For example, the Streamliner looks for innovation that cuts costs or makes the company more efficient but can struggle to see the value in a new approach to the industry or a bold step away from the norm of current products.

There are, of course, many different factors or approaches. Recently failed products, tightening budgets, a focus on the short term to bolster the business in the current quarter, a suddenly aggressive competitor; all of these things can play a part in how CEOs approach innovation. So, how should you approach innovation, looking at these archetypes and how you fit into them?

Changing Your Approach

The first step is to look at your past approach to innovation. As we said, each overall approach has benefits, to some degree, whether it’s offering clear and open support of innovation ideas or encouraging certain forms of innovation. But each also has drawbacks that, over time, will seem obvious. Have you encouraged innovation among the ranks, but focused your time and resources on other matters, like the Cheerleader does? Do you have a long view of innovation but tend to focus more on the short term, like the Visionary?

leading is tough. Innovation doesn’t have to be.

Next, consider how you can address these drawbacks. Every leader has a different set of circumstances to innovate with, so consider what makes your company, and the innovation you need, unique. Really, this has much to do with innovation itself. You need to look closely at your current processes, pull back and look at it from a global perspective for strengths and weaknesses, think through potential solutions to them, and then implement and refine those solutions. Bubble Wrap sat on the shelf for years as wallpaper and greenhouse insulation before somebody realized it solved a major problem in the shipping industry.

Keep in mind, there is no perfect innovator. We often hear about the brilliance of Steve Jobs, but nobody discusses the thousands of Apple Lisa computers he supposedly buried in Utah after it failed, or Apple’s ill-fated first foray into a phone that downloaded and played music, the Motorola ROKR. Taking multiple approaches to challenges is part of the innovation process. Not every approach will be ideal, or they wouldn’t be challenges.

What’s important is that you keep up the process both of innovation, and challenging yourself and your employees to keep improving how you innovate. Innovation is the fundamental building block of success, after all, and you need to be as fresh and smart in your approach as you are with innovation. Need help? Join our newsletter!

Think: the Second Step in Innovation

Think first, then act.

In the first step of innovation, we discussed observation, and how Galileo conceived of the pendulum clock years before it would ultimately be invented. But, of course, Galileo wasn’t the first to look at a swinging chandelier. What made the difference was his approach to what he saw, his method of thought.

Centuries later, another brilliant innovator, IBM’s Thomas Watson, became famously obsessed with thought. His one-word motto for the company was “THINK,” and you still find that motto in force at IBM today. He often went further: IBM’s collection of quotes has, among others, Watson’s argument to think first, then act:

“The trouble with every one of us is that we don’t think enough. We don’t get paid for working with our feet—we get paid for working with our heads. Feet can never compete with brains.” 

So what does it mean to think, especially when it comes to innovation?

Thought And Innovation

Watson’s approach to thought can really be summed up by a much older proverb: “Measure twice, cut once.” Watson saw the thought process, unsurprisingly, as a linear thing: He wanted his employees to consider what they were doing, step by step, and ask themselves why they were doing it. Mindlessly following commands was against the culture Watson wanted to build.

In other words, Watson’s idea of thinking is very much an active one. True thought involves critical consideration of everything, from the assumptions you’re working off of to even your own thought process. If you really step back and look at how you deal with day-to-day problems, you might find that you’ve picked a solution and keep going back to it because it’s worked in the past, even if there’s a better way that’s right there.

So, how do you encourage this, in your innovation strategy? Really it comes down to a simple question: Why?

The Power Of Why

We all have our reasons for why we do things, but we rarely unpack and consider those reasons, even when we should. Often one of the greatest roadblocks to innovation is that we don’t think through the entire process from the ground up. IBM was famous for demanding that employees constantly question their own assumptions, which was particularly crucial in an industry where advancements seen as science fiction in 1960 were old technology in 1965.

Approach matters.

“THINK,” to Watson, was a verb. It was something you did actively, not passively. Thought is not guided, it leads. If something is a certain way, why is it that way? Can it be reconfigured, deconstructed, rebuilt, reconsidered? If you see the consequences of a decision playing out a certain way, is that set in stone, or are you just assuming that’s the only way it could happen?

In other words, thinking is work. If it’s easy, it’s probably not thinking in the first place. But, as Watson said in the quote we cited at the beginning, that’s why we collect our salaries in the first place.

With Forethought

Thinking isn’t the beginning and end of innovation. It’s famously held in the military that no plan survives contact with the enemy, and this is as true of peaceful business as it is of violent warfare. But thought is where the rubber of innovation meets the road of making it a physical reality. Active, careful thinking will ensure that your innovation is more than just an idle idea.

Need to build a better innovation strategy? Join our newsletter

Observation: The First Step in Innovation

What do you see, in the world around you?

In 1602, Galileo Galilei noticed the swinging of a chandelier after it had been lit. It seemed that, regardless of what angle the chandelier swung, the period – that is, the time it took to complete a swing – remained constant, something he confirmed using his pulse to time it. Galileo theorized that this pendulum motion could be used to create more precise timepieces. It turns out that he was right. Even though he never built one in his lifetime, the pendulum is, indeed, a reliable measure of time.

This story underscores the importance of observation in innovation. Innovation doesn’t emerge out of a vacuum, but from observing the world around us. So, how can we better observe, and apply our observations to innovation strategy?

Becoming A Better Observer

This story of Galileo is, in of itself, a perfect summary of observation’s role in innovation. Galileo

  • noticed something,
  • formed a theory about it,
  • and confirmed that theory.

That theory served as the building block for a larger idea. And so it goes with observation.

Observation is the bedrock for innovation. It starts with raw data, be it the world around us, as in Galileo’s case, or with something as simple as a sales spreadsheet posing a riddle like “Why does one product sell but another barely makes a dent?” You, and those innovating with you, need to observe our world critically. If something is one way, why is it that way? Could it be another?

That said, it can be tough to toss theories out there. After all, you can observe all the data you want, think hard about it, and put together an intelligently considered theory that’s absolutely wrong. But here, again, Galileo is instructive.

Getting It Wrong To Get It Right

Observation is where innovation starts.

Ironically, Galileo turns out to have technically been wrong; the exact period of a pendulum will vary slightly. This wasn’t his fault. Today, we’d be able to prove it to him with the clocks cued to the decay of atoms. Our smartphones sync to show perfect time. We can explain the concepts of airflow and friction that he, and every other learned man of his time, didn’t yet understand. But, he was working with the tools and the information he had. It was later on his observations were refined into innovation.

This illustrates another aspect of observation. That Galileo got it wrong, technically, doesn’t matter. He got it right enough to deliver a meaningful observation upon which others could build. Without his observation of pendulums and their regularity, we wouldn’t have those atomic clocks. His theory may have been wrong in the details, but fundamentally, where it counted, he was correct.

Remember this as you observe. What matters isn’t that you nail everything in all the little technical details. That’s impossible unless you’re a savant or dealing with a very granular situation. What matters in observation is gathering data, applying theories, and imagining what could come out of those theories. When you do that, you’re on the road to innovation.

Building an innovation strategy can be tough. Make it easier: Join the IdeaScale community

Courage to Fail

Courage to FailOur attitude towards failure is an evolving concept and it also varies a lot depending on the country, the culture, and the individual. It can be very frightening. In fact, one study found that more people are afraid of failure than are afraid of spiders, ghosts, and being in an empty house.

However, an investigation into failure shows that it is those among us that aren’t afraid to fail who will experience the most success. So if you’re crowdsourcing new ideas from your employees, how do you communicate to them that failure is not something that they should fear? Well, you start by changing your organization’s attitude to failure. Here are three tips that might help you change that attitude:

  1. Celebrate Failures. When you’re celebrating new ideas and projects that succeeded, share the stage with ideas that didn’t make it to the final round but showed a lot of promise. Even better, highlight the ideas that made it all the way through but then failed to perform. That gets people to think more creatively about the types of ideas that they can share and simultaneously shows them that failed ideas won’t be penalized.
  2. Highlight Lessons Learned. Activate a culture of learning by always looking for new ways to build institutional knowledge. When failures are rebranded as a resource, it helps everyone to feel comfortable contributing new and creative (even risky) ideas.
  3. Don’t De-Risk Everything. Good organizations are built to minimize risk, but if you eliminate risk, you also eliminate the possibility for innovation. Make a few big bets every once in awhile. You don’t have to bet the farm, but trying something new and out there will show others that it’s okay to try things that are new and out there, as well.

To learn more about the importance of our attitude toward failure, download this infographic.

How does your organization respond to failure?

Do You Know How to Identify and Nurture Innovation Talent?

Nurture Innovation TalentMany companies today are experiencing an accelerated pace of change. As the world around us changes, how do successful companies drive change internally? After all, most of your workforce was probably hired for their functional skills, such as sales, accounting or production. Now we find that a new set of skills is necessary, and many companies aren’t sure how to identify and cultivate these skills.

Here are some common approaches to this problem:

Look for Creative Employees Creativity is most definitely a component of innovation, but only one component. It turns out there are seven other skills that drive innovation business results. Mistaking creativity for innovation has two consequences:

  1. When we overly glorify creativity, we minimize the importance of the other seven skills in the innovation process.
  2. We may over-look employees with the other equally essential innovation skills, making innovation a very exclusive club indeed.

These consequences put innovation at greater risk of failure.

Try to Make Everyone Innovative On the other hand, there is a precious belief out there that we can all be innovative. In our observation, this belief can create a certain tension, a sense of dread, even anger, among those who are not wired for change.  One CINO reported that she was asked, “When is all of this innovation stuff going to be over?” We all have seen the way such resistors can sabotage innovation efforts. According to Swarm research, about half of humanity really prefers that things stay the same. Why not let them focus on maintaining the current business and continuous improvement? They will be much happier.

Assume Diverse Teams are Strong Teams In 30 years of research on innovation teams, a slight correlation was found between diversity and innovation team results. But not all diversity. Diverse functional skills do help teams develop holistic innovations and de-risk them from many perspectives. But a functionally diverse team with weak coverage of the 8 innovation skills will still struggle. These are the 8 instrinsic skills required for success in innovation.

Now companies have the tools to identify innovation talent in their workforce. We can identify incremental to disruptive talent and martial it where needed. We can drill down to the 8 skills correlated with business results, and the 26 sub-clusters to diagnose teams, and build a culture of innovation on data, not guesswork.

To learn more about identifying and nurturing innovation talent, download the infographic here.


This is a guest post authored by Suzan Briganti, CEO and Founder of Swarm Vision. Suzan brings 25 years of experience in research, strategy and innovation. Suzan has patents pending in innovation software. She has grown Swarm Vision from a garage start-up to a trusted solution provider to global Fortune 500 clients. Suzan leads Swarm Vision with a focus on building great products and teams. Suzan has an MBA summa cum laude from Boston University and a design degree from Italy.