Kate Hammer

Projects Are How Innovation Happens

Not Innovation MemevFProjects, Projects, Projects

Innovation is complex and difficult — but one thing about it is not.

What’s quite simple about innovation is that projects are what make innovation real.

The following concepts, frameworks, approaches, etc. are Not Innovation.  Unless they are in the context of an actual project.

  • Thinking about things is not innovation
  • Having beers and kicking ideas around are not innovation
  • Brainstorming sessions are not innovation
  • Idea Campaigns are not innovation
  • Guided visualizations are not innovation
  • Design Thinking is not innovation
  • Creative Problem Solving is not innovation
  • DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats are not innovation
  • Lean is not innovation
  • Prototyping is not innovation
  • Crowd sourcing or Open innovation are not innovation
  • TQM and Six Sigma are not innovation
  • Defining an innovation process is not innovation
  • Training is not innovation
  • Measuring your organizational culture is not innovation
  • Hiring a new Innovation Director is not innovation
  • Market research is not innovation
  • Big Data is not innovation
  • Metrics are not innovation
  • Trend radars are not innovation
  • Understanding best practices in innovation are not innovation

There is only one thing that changes culture and leads to actual innovation. That thing is innovation projects.

The concepts I mention in the bullet list above can, and should, be part of innovation. Indeed, some of them are essential, others are helpful, and all of them have their place. A specific approach done well can make a big difference in the effectiveness of innovation efforts. But they are all support functions, they are all useless unless they are in the context of a project. They can actually prevent innovation if they are not in the context of a project.

If you really want innovation at your organization, you need to start doing projects. Then, keep doing them. Some will fail. Some will succeed. Some projects will be authorized and mandated, some will not be. Some projects will be inside a well defined framework and some will be flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. Whatever. Learn as you go and use the lovely techniques and concepts that best fit your organization. Don’t get me wrong, you should know about all those concepts listed. Knowing best practices means you can go beyond them and create something unique.

If you want proof of this idea that it’s all about projects just see what Min Basadur, Edwards Demming, and Joseph Juran say about how to innovate and change and improvement in organizational culture. Those experts are all about projects. The proof is out there, and, it’s obvious isn’t it?

Leaders, CEO’s just keep it simple. Innovation is about Projects.

Ask your people if they are doing projects. If they are, ask how they’re going. If they’re not doing projects, ask why not? You may find the answer is you. You may be the reason no projects are happening. You have have refused to support projects or ignored the results of projects. You may have communicated, in some way, that you want folks to focus on operations or other things. Leaders, if you provide smart people with a mandate to do projects, and task them to get started, you’re doing your job. Monitor progress of the project cycles and expect to get pitched on various ideas.

If your team is not pitching you on new ideas they want to take to market or implementation, and fairly often, you’ve got a problem. It means that they don’t believe they can do innovation, it means they don’t believe they’ll be supported. Let them know you want to hear pitches. Let them know you want an on-going cycle of innovation projects. Then adjust the process as you go.

It’s really not that hard.

Projects.

Fast Company’s Brainstorming Fail

Fast Company Article “Brainstorming is Dumb” Misses the Point Brainstorming, Done Properly, Is Not a Tool, It’s A Multi-Step Process Here we go again. And yet another major publication publishes a misleading article about brainstorming — Brainstorming is Dumb. This happens about every six months. This time it’s Fast Company. The article gets a few things right, but misses the big picture, and smears a giant of the field, Alex Osborn. The headline is dead wrong, but wonderfully provocative. Fast Company missed an opportunity to inform more fully at the very least. The omission is so large one wonders if they have a fact checker on staff. The big picture the article misses is that brainstorming is not a single




Read More..

Innovation Strategy Power Tools

Challenge Mapping & IdeaKeg Do you want to cut through the clutter when it comes to innovation strategy? Are you sorting through plans for year-end strategy and ideation sessions? Are you at the very front end of innovation and not sure where to go, where to start? Are you asking questions like these (you should be!): What projects might we get started before the end of the year? What might be our innovation focus for 2017? How might we leverage those research insights we’ve developed? What trends and ideas outside our industry might we adapt to innovate? These questions can be tough to sort out. I’m suggesting here two bits of “sorting out” technology. Consider using two powerful innovation and




Read More..

Trump: Learn to Steal Smart

Stealing Smart and Stealing Stupid Melania Trump’s speech last evening at the GOP convention, and today’s subsequent media uproar and fiasco, is symbolic of several things in my view. Summarizing my themes here: Competence, Theft, and Ideas (or lack of them). I’ll take flack for writing this post, but understand, this is not about politics. It involves politics — but my comments have more to do with creativity and innovation. As most of you know, my interests are in those areas, so, I’m looking at recent events with that lens. Not as a lefty, not as a righty. I’m looking at this with the green tinted shades of the artist and the black and white lens of a professional innovator.




Read More..

Dirty Martini Sunset

Just for fun. Had a Dirty Martini on the deck at the Stray Dog in New Buffalo, MI. Good times.




Read More..

The Risk of Not Innovating

I recently was a guest blogger for Gibson Insurance and I wrote this piece about the risk of Not Innovating. I’ll make the point again here — with fewer words. For more detail, read my post over at Gibson. Risk Aversion is a Risk Itself Many leaders pull back on innovation programs because of expenses, and, fear of change. They settle for small changes and improvements and continue to look at innovation as if it’s extra work. They pay lip service to innovation and waste time doing culture assessments. They also spend precious time developing a precise process for innovation. Cultural awareness of the climate for innovation is a good thing, and a defined process is as well, but don’t




Read More..

Six Ideas for Coping with Little “d” Depression in Innovation Projects

Innovation and Depression …Six Ideas for Coping with Little “d” Depression… Nobody talks about the dark emotions related to innovation. You hear about the emotional high of a big “aha” moment. Or, less frequently, about the “oh crap” moment when a project hits a brick wall. But nobody talks about how personal battles with the dark side impact innovation. How many promising projects have gone up in smoke because the creator, the innovator, the project leader, or a team member lost faith in a dark moment? Losing heart for something you want to do can happen when a wave of negative emotion carries you away. It’s why people give up. Emotional highs and lows are part of life. I’m not




Read More..

Dance Your Challenge

Shake Your Booty The Creativity and Innovation point of this blog takes about three paragraphs to develop, so business readers, let me tell you a brief story to set it up. I was having dinner this week with Gary Schwartz, a fine actor and Improv person who was blowing through Chicago to promote his new children’s book, The King of Average.  Gary studied with a hero of mine, Viola Spolin (he’s the leading expert on her games and methods). As we talked about Improv and I heard some of his stories I was particularly impressed with one story having to do with “getting into the body” of a role. The Story: So Gary was playing the role of a Roman




Read More..

Intrapreneurship Chicago 2016

Authentically Different Conference In recent years I’ve become a bit anti-conference. I still go to some but I find the formats tired. The formula favors big name authors and speakers who sometimes miss the mark. The agenda is so jammed you don’t have time to talk to your peers. The social events are fun, but a bit… forced. So, you may be surprised when I bend over backwards to promote Intrapreneurship Chicago 2016.  The event is going to be held at the TechNexus accelerator in the River North area. Chicago area innovators and intrapreneurs, take note. June 22! This conference is authentically different. And highly useful if you are a real working Intrapreneur. 90% of the conference attendees will be




Read More..

Nine Ways to Play at Work

Nine Ways to Play At Work (see list below) The idea that one should invoke a sense of play around challenges is not a new one. Tim Brown of IDEO did that great TED speech on play, and there have been several more TED play-centric talks (Stuart Brown, John Cohn, Sue Palmer) all variations on the theme. Sunni Brown’s talk on Doodling is a personal favorite because she gets specific about how one can begin to be more creatively playful with problem solving. An emerging trend in business is using improvisation games as the basis for team building and problem solving. The work of Del Close, who shaped the serious play of long form Improv and Viola Spolin, who invented




Read More..