Dear Diary Innovation Series, Post #2

This is the second post in a series on innovation. To see the first post in the series, follow this link: A Valuation of Innovation.

Innovation can increase the pace of change. Consider that roughly half of the companies within the Fortune 500 in the year 2000 have either been acquired, merged or have declared bankruptcy. Certainly, there are multiple market forces that play a part in this outcome. However, this trend testifies to the realities that disruption can happen quickly and innovation is a factor that cannot be ignored.

To innovate or not to innovate: is that even a question?

In my first post, we noted examples of innovative companies that have helped to change the landscape as we know it today. We can also look back on companies that did not innovate. For example, Polaroid was riding high when it developed instant photography, but missed the boat on digital cameras. Borders, which once employed nearly 20,000 people in its bookstores, made several missteps that contributed to the company’s downfall. Among those failures was a decision to forego an online bookselling capability on its own website and misreading the importance of entering the e-book market, like Amazon did with the Kindle and Barnes and Noble did with the Nook. Blockbuster, of course, used to be the market titan in the movie rental industry, but failed to transform its business model from brick and mortar stores to mail order rentals and later, to streaming.

These companies, among others, provide a warning. We cannot rest on our laurels, our past successes, and assume that continuing along in the same way will be the recipe for sustained success. We need to be alert to changes in the marketplace and the needs of our customers. We must be attentive to the impact of technology on today’s marketplace, as well as consider the future opportunities that will arise as a result of emerging technologies such as cloud computing, big data applications and artificial intelligence.

There are moments when innovation can change the course of a company and can sweep aside entire industries. Of course, innovation can have beneficial effects that are less dramatic. We can, for instance, use the tools of human-centered design to refresh a weekly planning meeting or prioritize a list of projects. It is important to consider how we might spur innovation within our businesses, communities, and indeed, within our very homes.

This series looks at habits that cultivate an innovation mindset.

We will begin by discussing one of those habits today: journaling. There are many techniques in human centered design, and different techniques are used in different situations. Journaling can be a habit that is quite versatile. Dual Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling once said, “The best way to have a great idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

Journaling is a great way to turn on the spigot of ideas.

Grab a notebook and start making lists; perhaps start with ten ideas at a time. Flipping through my journal, recent lists include how to more effectively present ideas at work and how to encourage my kids to read more.

Ideating is a like a muscle—the more we do it, the stronger we become! It is important to note that brainstorming should focus on the quantity of ideas rather than the quality of ideas. Also, try to limit the brainstorming timeframe, say 5 minutes or so. The idea is to gather as many ideas as possible in short bursts of creative concentration. Additional analysis can be done later to evaluate and prioritize which ideas to pursue, so don’t get bogged down in nixing ideas during the brainstorming phase—not only will you divert energy away from idea creation, you may prematurely discard an idea without fully realizing its possibilities. As Albert Einstein once said, “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” Who wants to argue with Albert Einstein?

Jennifer Doering provides management advisory services, such as business valuation and compensation consulting, and would be happy to discuss any future needs or questions you have in these areas.

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