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Luck Or Skill? Innovation Process For Smart Organizations

Innovation as a SkillFor industries that are not steeped in innovation, the very idea of creating something new conjures up thoughts of mad scientists with wild gray hair, people throwing pencils at the ceiling and/or men in black unitards.

Leaders in large organizations are far more comfortable with formula than randomness in decision making.

But when a great innovation is judged as so, in hindsight, the world points to brilliance and/or being in the right place at the right time.

So which is it, luck or skill?

A little luck never hurts, but there is a skill associated with developing and maintaining a culture of innovation. The key is to help your stakeholders understand that good innovation is not random; it is deliberate.

Innovation is not once and done—one brilliant idea and “boom.” No, the discipline of innovation is knowing how to fill a pipeline with great ideas and keep it full at all times. Companies that are able to do this stay fresh and ahead of their competition, and sometimes invent new industries where there is no competition.

Here’s a high-level view of how the smartest companies in the world stay sharp:

  1. Start with hunches that come from people who are encouraged to have them. They need to be curious, positive and imaginative.
  2. Develop insights and identify needs. That’s research—good, solid, qualitative and quantitative research.
  3. Generate ideas. Yes, this comes third, not first. Hunches are not ideas; ideas are well-designed, well-thought-out concepts that come from insight. Hunches may be correct, but they need to be developed and tested.
  4. Retest, refine. One must go back and kick the tires with the audience to see that they want it, would buy it and how much they would pay for it.
  5. Communicate—brilliantly. Many great ideas never reach their full potential because the people who stand the most to gain (those with significant unmet needs fulfilled by your new product, service or business model) simply don’t know it exists or don’t understand what it can do for them.

Trusting and following the process is key to stacking the innovation odds in your organization’s favor and putting some certainty into the mix for those who need it.

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