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    Training is an Innovation Accelerant

    trainingfireCreativity and innovation training is a highly effective accelerant for business results.

    When I step into a room to facilitate an innovation, strategy, or idea generation session I nearly always find a great deal of energy.

    What I also often find is inexperience — in the kind of thinking necessary to innovate.

    Successful managers and leaders are promoted up the ladder because of their great analytical thinking skills. Day to day, operationally, that’s what’s called for and that’s what’s rewarded. The bad news is the more imaginative and divergent thinking required at the front end of innovation is rarely used and almost never rewarded. That’s why those sessions often start with a great deal of pizazz but fade into lethargy right after lunch. A good facilitator can help but the artist formerly known as Prince couldn’t keep some of these sessions rockin. Mercy!

    Energy, motivation, even inspiration are important factors in getting innovation rolling. But none of them, or all of them together, are enough to overcome untrained thinking. Creative thinking skills are taken for granted — and that’s a problem because without training and practice very few people are naturally good at creative thinking. Everyone is creative, everyone has that capacity, but it’s latent until trained. I have the capacity to run a Marathon — it’s possible — but if I went out there today I’d be lucky to walk 26 miles.

    Yes, you can train the various aspects of creative thinking (imaginative, divergent, visioning, strategic, conceptual). If you want idea generation of any kind to work – don’t skip training. Much of the research that says brainstorming doesn’t work studied groups with no training. Training, a good facilitator, and frequent practice are foundational elements to effective sessions and organizational innovation culture.

    That difficult bit of  invention that analysis can’t quite solve on its own is especially challenging for corporations. Training can make a big difference in bridging the gap between market knowledge and… what could be. It’s not enough to know a market white space. It’s not enough to have “insights” from in-depth research. It’s the creative thinking that builds on that research and insight that gets you workable concepts and ultimately market results.

    Managers, leaders, and innovation teams need to understand how to think about innovation — and they need to know how to think and implement innovation. It doesn’t just happen.

    You’ll see immediate and positive results with creativity and innovation training. Min Basadur did a rigorous study, see here, and that’s not the only proof. Individuals learn how to think and express ideas in a more positive, focused, and free flowing way with certain types of creativity training. Teams achieve breakthrough results when properly facilitated through through a rapid, flexible, but structured process at the front end of innovation. Frameworks like CPS are essential. Power tools like applied improvisation games can help you run faster. Stimulus tools like KILN’s IdeaKeg help you scaffold your thinking using trends from outside your industry or category.

    Creativity training feeds innovation process like wood wool feeds flame.

    The creative training many experts advocate is structured Creative Problem Solving training (CPS, aka ‘Osborn-Parnes model’) and Front End of Innovation process training (FEI). CPS is a time-tested framework. Many innovation consultants use CPS or their own modified versions of CPS (see my business novel about CPS, Jack’s Notebook.) CPS is broad enough and flexible enough to incorporate Design Thinking tools and even applied improvisation games. FEI process training is about how to conduct and orchestrate a series of activities that happen before the classic stage-gate/pipeline of new product development. Stage-gate is in the textbooks. FEI training is being done, but is relatively obscure. CPS training is generally more available — but not ubiquitous.

    If you have a team that is already trained, take it to the next level with an Improv to Innovate workshop. Improv isn’t just about comedy — it’s about improved access to spontaneous thinking, and applied creativity to business challenges.

    Sadly, it’s notable that as an innovation budget line item — it is often left out entirely, or, it’s the first sacrificial lamb to be cut. It should be the first thing done because creativity and innovation training is an accelerant towards more rapid business results.

    Training Accelerates Innovation in Five Strategic Ways:

    1. Improved creative thinking skill leads to more breakthrough new business concepts
    2. Training helps instil structured creative thinking and innovation process as a cultural value and habit
    3. CPS and FEI training provide innovation teams with a common language and framework to solve problems. This means expedited resolution of challenges and more rapid iteration of new business concepts
    4. Training corrects many of the common myths that surround creativity and innovation. There is a science to this that is largely ignored. For those that learn and practice the science — it’s a competitive advantage.
    5. Team efficiency improves because a lot of useless chatter, debate, and conflict is reduced or eliminated

    If you are in charge of an innovation program or initiative — do training first. All activities that happen afterwards will be performed at a higher level, and from day one. Imagine creativity applied to research, platform question framing, idea generation, concept development, and management presentations. Imagine an innovation framework your team can get better and better at…

    Creative training is the fuel for innovation fire.

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    Six Reasons Why Employees Shun Innovation

    Leadership is Uninvolved with Innovation. Yes, I just said that. Take me out to the wall and shoot me — but in many companies this is a major problem. I used to frequent a bagel shop on the south side of Chicago. It wasn’t a chain. Just a small business with great tasting bagels in a good location. I popped in one day about 9:00 am for a raisin bagel with cream cheese and was a bit startled to find myself the only customer in the store. I remarked to the young lady behind the counter that it was pretty quiet for that time of day. She said, with no irony, “isn’t that great!” I’ll skip the fake ‘I’m so

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    Eight Politically Incorrect Statements About Innovation

    I asked myself a different question today: What do I believe about innovation but simply avoid saying to be politically correct? What am I not saying? At the risk of being labeled a curmudgeon I’ve decided to state some things I believe to be true about innovation which may offend. Innovation is difficult and it doesn’t happen enough because of these eight impediments, so, this needs said. Eight Politically Incorrect Statements About Innovation: Top Management doesn’t understand creativity. They say they want it but when they experience it the gut reaction is to disavow it, restrain it, fire it. Most top managers are uncomfortable with classically creative people. A lot of people with innovation in their title do little or no

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    Take Advantage — Innovate More for Less

    I’ve done 385 general interest creativity and innovation posts in the last few years. This post is different — it contains a commercial offer — albeit a fairly innovative one. If you’re not interested please ignore this post. Here’s the offer – I’ve decided to double the value I provide to my customers by offering a good old fashioned two-for-one deal. Why? I want to generate more buzz about my service offerings. To generate more buzz I want the perception of my value to be exceptional. So exceptional that people will talk , tweet, and refer. There is no sleight of hand here, I’ll be working twice for one fee. For both services delivered I won’t be cutting preparation time or the customization I

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    A New Idea for Black Friday

    The concept of Black Friday has me thinking about what we reward as consumers. My idea of shopping has nothing to do with sharp elbows, crowds, or even bargains. The kind of shopping I like is when I find something truly unique, really special and creative or innovative, at a small shop or family business. Best for me if it’s made in America, and of high quality craftsmanship, to me, this is real value — and I’ll buy that, I’ll reward that. That kind of shopping is increasingly hard to do. As I watched CNN this morning I was a bit amazed by all the “news” around the concept of Black Friday. Man-on-the-spot interviews at shopping malls, traffic reports from WalMart,

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    What’s Your Innovation Plan for 2014?

    It’s that time of year again. Time to think about what your innovation plan for 2014 is going to be. Have you done anything more than ponder this question? Have you even noodled about with it? Written anything down? The time is NOW! It doesn’t really matter if you have on your personal beret or your business fedora — if you don’t plan, and soon, you won’t be starting 2014 with anything like momentum. What you want, at the very least, is a general statement that focuses your efforts, and a breakdown of how you’ll get there through the next four quarters. If you’ve never done this before, I would suggest that you put creativity, creative problem solving, and innovation

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    Reading Widely Means More Dots to Connect

    People ask me what I read. I think this question is inspired by my citing some arcane fact or that I make a weird connection now and then. I am a voracious reader, but I think what I actually read might surprise. Most of it is NOT directly about creativity and innovation (that’s a way to guarantee you’re boring!) Reading widely provides more dots to connect. Broadly, I’m thinking I’m improving my database by reading a lot of varied and weird content. There is some science to this; one can make more conceptual blends if one has more to blend. And, concept blending, new connections, are where innovation comes from. So, this is a snapshot of what I’m reading, for

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    The Value of a “Cross Domain” View

      Dr. Orin Davis (@DrOrinDavis) has written up two more short pieces — essentially his reflections from the talks of Rebecca Henderson and Dan Pink at the recent World Innovation Forum. His comments on Pink are somewhat provocative, so, be aware I do not share Orin’s views exactly. Orin is a well read academic (and practitioner as well) and he knows a lot about the wide array of literature that exists for creativity and innovation — that’s why I’ m publishing his insightful work here. His critique of Pink is interesting to me because I was not aware of who Pink borrows from, and, if he is borrowing faithfully to the original research. That said, I think there’s a real value for people

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    Top 40 Innovation Blogger? (Top 10!)

    Precious readers, greetings from the dark night, where I write, jet-lagged, arthritis-nagged, caffiene-jagged — but writing for you, once again, trying to provide insight, information, and ultimately value about this wacky idea of innovation. Please forgive the somewhat naval gazing aspect of this post. The good news for you is over the past year you may have missed some of my more interesting posts and the bullet list below provides some quick links to stuff you might find interesting. A request for help: Every year, Innovation Excellence, a premier portal for innovation content, has a popularity contest style “Top 40″ Innovation Bloggers of the year listing. I admit, I wish to be on the list. I wasn’t last year and

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    When Culture Matters…for Innovation

    Back in those glory days at the University of Cincinnati, I was assigned a lovely little textbook to read for Freshman English class called “The Elements of Style” (by E.B. White and William Strunk). In a nutshell it’s all about how to write clearly. It provides succinct advice with spot-on examples. It’s a smallish book which easily fits into your jacket pocket. I read it, used it, and have refferred to it hundreds of times over the years. I treasure that slim little book. I’ve just found a similar treasure — but having to do with cross-cultural communications.  It’s official title is When Culture Matters, the 55 minute guide to better cross-cultural communication, by Indy Neogy.* True to its title,

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