10 Trends In Innovation (March 2011)

It occurred to me that as a cultural trend spotter and scanner, I’ve not posted about current trends in my own field of Innovation.  No time like the present!  Like any industry or concept things fall in and out of fashion. This is just my view, but a fairly well informed one. So, here are my 10 thoughts about innovation trends, in no particular order: (see below for more thinking about each item)

10 Trends In Innovation (March 2011)

1. Creativity is getting more lip service but less action.

2. Risk Aversion is still very much part of the big company scene.

3. Lack of Resources is the number one excuse for not innovating.

4. Idea Management Systems and Product Portfolio Management Systems are gaining ground.

5. There is a growing realization that “ideation” sessions are poorly done.

6. Managers still seek the magic innovation bullet.

7. Innovation teams rarely are real teams.

8. Design thinking and design in general has a lot of buzz.

9. Customers can help you improve, but can’t invent for you.

10. Culture is recognized as important, but is difficult to change.

The more detailed poop:

1. Creativity is getting more lip service but less action. So, IBM does a worldwide executive survey and they say they want more Creativity. So, the concept of creativity is no longer scary, exec’s see the connection to innovation, and it’s more desired. But do you see any creativity programs at your corporation?  If anything creativity training or creative process training is even less popular than it was 10 years ago. This new recognition of creativity is nothing more than lip service.

2. Risk Aversion is still very much part of the big company scene. Planview recently did a survey that indicated 60% of companies realize they are quite risk averse. Everybody knows you need to take more risks to get more reward, but it’s still way easier to say No, than to stick your neck out and create something new. Why would any executive risk a new product?  Most of their rewards are based on performance of existing products.  And, as long as managers/executives think they can mitigate risk by doing more market research, we’ll continue to see less risk taking. Risk means access to intuition, and this is not a skill anyone teaches.

3. Lack of Resources is the number one excuse for not innovating. As long as innovation is seen as an extra task it will continue to get less attention. The shift that needs to occur, and this isn’t widely recognized, is that everybody needs to contribute to innovation, and, pretty much all the time. It needs to be part of the fabric of every meeting, every task, every job, and in most organizations, it’s really not.

4. Idea Management Systems (IMS) and Product Portfolio Management (PPM) Systems are gaining ground. At long last these automation products are gaining steam in the market place.  This is progress. I predict a shake out though, there are really too many Idea Management Systems in the market, there are over 20, and I suspect in 3 years we’ll see more like 10. PPM’s are now widely installed in big corporations, it would be interesting to know how effectively.

5. There is a growing realization that “ideation” sessions are poorly done. People are looking for something new, the old fashioned methods for developing products are feeling more and more like a blunt edged sword. What’s needed are more pragmatic, more frequent, and more kinesthetic processes. See Kiln Ideas, Ltd.

6. Managers still seek the magic Innovation bullet. At every conference I go to, and in every blog post I read, there is lots of advice on the particulars of Innovation. Usually, the focus is on one particular, and less so on “systems”, overall process, or, god forbid, culture.  And yet, the complexity of innovation means there is not “one thing” to do, it’s a holistic challenge that can only be tackled with big picture approaches.

7. Innovation teams rarely are real teams. Teams are groups that work together and have an intimate understanding of strengths, weaknesses, and, TRUST. Most corporate innovation teams are not teams at all, but loosely assembled work groups. Yes, they have a common task, but they are not a team, and will not see the synergistic benefits of a team until they actually build one. And this is not done with a ropes course. Work group innovation is very inefficient!

8. Design thinking and design in general has a lot of buzz. I don’t doubt the efficacy of design thinking, it should be part of almost any innovation effort.  However, it’s become a bit of a buzz concept. Corporate innovators need to look beyond the buzz and glean from design thinking that which can be helpful. For instance, observational research is a design tool that everyone should use.

9. Customers can help you improve, but can’t invent. Focus groups are not designed for invention, they are designed for reflection. Even customer workshops, which are a good idea, are only a stepping stone to invention. Yes, you need to understand your market, your customers, AND, you need to visionize beyond what they say they want now, and give them something they’ll want in the future.

10. Culture is recognized as important, but difficult to change. Contradicting what I said above in #6, there is “one thing” about innovation, and that is the culture of the company.  If you get the culture right, you can screw up a lot of other things and still muddle through.  If you get the culture wrong, it’s over. Having said this, culture is darn hard to manage or change.  Every company has a soul. If you’re the big guy or gal, find out what that is and remain true to it (that’s easy right?).

 

    4 Responses to “10 Trends In Innovation (March 2011)”

    1. Hi Greg,

      saw your trends in innovation and thought they were very timely. Your point 1 about creativity and lip service rings true. I am doing a cross-Canada tour starting March 29th saying just that. Thanks IBM for telling the world that we need creative leaders, now how about telling them how to do it. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m also talking about the fact that there is no silver bullet for innovation. Innovation requires lots of hard work and people using disciplined processes and principles like those inherent in creative problem solving.

      Here’s the link in case you happen to be in Canada on any of the city dates.

      http://www.cmctraining.org/event/index.asp?id=427&n=National-Thought-Leader-Series–Toronto

    2. GREGG FRALEY says:

      Good luck on your tour Janice, I’d love to hear your talk. Video?

      The one I didn’t mention #11, is the new mantra, it’s not about ideas it’s about execution. I don’t agree, it’s about ideas AND execution.

      Thanks for your comment.

    3. Timely for me, too, Gregg. I just met with a company that I’ve been courting for several years to do innovation. Terrific company. Has a history of innovation, includes innovation as part of the brand, yet has no clear innovation process or culture to support it. It currently has great list of best practices (doing things better) but few new ideas (doing better things). And of course, when clients are asked, that’s the knock they most often have about the company.

      Eight of your 10 trends ring loud and true for this company. The hopeful news is that the people who are now heading the initiative would agree. Thanks for the list!

      Exciting to see what Janice is doing, too.

      • GREGG FRALEY says:

        Hi Dan,

        Thanks for your comment. Innovation can happen without a clear process, and culture tends to ebb and flow. I’m betting at one time the company you mention had a certain inventive soul, am I right?

        Take good care, and good luck with that company. Recognizing you have a problem is a good start actually.

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