Innovation As a Goal or As a By-Product?

I am increasingly finding myself recoil at the term innovation which I often find being thrown around like a commodity. So Co.Design’s The Seven Deadly Sins That Choke Out Innovation quickly caught my attention.

Helen goes on to write:

So often, the innovation process is treated as a simple, neat little machine. Put in a little cash and install the right process, and six months later, out pops your new game-changing innovation — just like toast, right from the toaster. But that, of course, is wrong.

I could not agree more with that statement, but for perhaps different reasons. Ryan Jacoby continues:

Last night, Ryan Jacoby, the heads of IDEO’s New York practice, gave a talk at NYU/Poly with just that tension in mind, titled Leading Innovation: Process Is No Substitute. Jacoby’s point: processes are all well and good, but they don’t guarantee innovation, and in some cases they might even provide a false sense of security.

Having an innovation process is fine, but it’s not a guarantee of success even if it does produce some tangible product at the end. Or, as he put it, “learn the process, execute the process, and then lead within it.”

I truly understand and respect what both Helen and Ryan are trying to get at. Additionally, I appreciate that Ryan is not suggesting some simple formula in order to achieve innovation. I think what unnerves me though is looking at innovation as almost a planned deliverable to a project and treating it as the end goal. I also question if it is worth the time to strive for it. The label is fickle, highly subjective and often times myopic. It seems far more productive to focus on solving today’s important and difficult problems and let someone else judge whether the end-product was indeed worthy of the term “innovative”.

1 thought on “Innovation As a Goal or As a By-Product?”

  1. I’ve been thinking about this for as long as the various organizations I work with started pushing innovation in everyones faces. I firmly believe that innovation is the by-product, not the goal. Think I’ll write a post about it. As I’d like delve much deeper into this topic. Stay tuned.

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