10 principles of innovation

Below is a useful checklist

  1. Ideas are fragile (so are people).
     In divergent brainstorming sessions, learn and keep to the "rules".  The rule which underpins all others is "no criticism".  It is a mistake to think that good management is about applying rigorous analysis of an idea as soon as it is proposed.

     Criticism can be open and aggressive, or it can be hidden and subtle - for example, writing a put-down on a post-it which someone else has written.  Those people whose ideas have been criticised usually withdraw their involvement and don't offer any more ideas.  They even stop supporting the ideas which have been criticised, so any potential merit in them is also lost

  2. Ideas are organic (so are people).
     When first proposed, any idea is likely to be only partly formed and thought through - this is what we mean by "fragile".  Any process of problem-solving should look to help such ideas grow and become stronger.  We recommend you  use the phrase "yes, and . . ." to recognise value in someone's idea and then to build on it with a suggestion of your own which helps the idea develop.

    Being good at having good ideas is a skill that develops over time.  The more practice you have, the better you become - and remember that this is true of those with whom you work in any innovation activity.  People (and you) need support as they develop.  Competence and confidence grow together.

  3. All ideas have value and should be given a hearing.
     One difficulty that often occurs in groups aiming to innovate is the impact of  senior members of the group when they feel their status is challenged.   This can lead to dismissing an idea too quickly.  An "expert" in the group may resent a non-expert expressing an opinion about his own area of expertise.  Alas, it is also true that some bosses feel the need to be seen to have better ideas than those he/she leads.

     If you run creativity sessions or Boosters to help a team innovate, then the techniques you build into the session plan can reduce the impact of  dominant members of the group and give almost everyone the opportunity to contribute.  An  example of such a technique is what we call Brain Pooling.  The group works in silence, first of all to write some solution ideas down on post-its, then to circulate the post-its, building on any of the others they receive which provoke further ideas.

  4. The originator of an idea needs assistance in idea enhancement and in promoting the idea internally.
     This principle illustrates our belief that "creativity" describes the recognition of a new potential idea in the mind of a single person, and that "innovation" applies to the (much harder and longer) process of turning the idea into useful reality.  It is hard to find any example of innovation which has been realised by the originator of the idea working alone.  In our experience, people who are good at having ideas are often poor at explaining them to others in a way which attracts resources and sponsorship from the organisation for which they work or from external sources.

  5. The originator is the initial advocate of an idea and should be actively involved in its development.
     One thing the originator of an idea can bring to an innovation team is commitment to making the idea work.  It is hard to feel the same degree of ownership as a member of the team working on someone else's idea.  Even if the team charged with the development does not include the originator, it is almost essential  to check your progress and discuss setbacks and roadblocks with the person whose "baby" it is.  We have experienced a patented idea for a software-based recognition system being given to a development team who missed out this important step and failed to complete the project successfully. 

  6. Only ideas which have been enhanced to demonstrate potential value will be brought to management.
     This captures an important process which runs in parallel with the development process of turning "creativity" (having the idea) into "innovation" (producing a useful product).  Ideas need to fit the organisation in a number of ways - its structure, financial position, capabilities, current production processes and so on - even before thinking about whether the new product can find a viable market.  Each of these parameters of organisational fit can change in nature or in importance (think of how reluctant some companies are to invest in R&D during an economic downturn).  So an innovation team must be able to show significant potential benefit to the organisation against each of these parameters throughout the development lifecycle.  The most important step is the first, when the idea first meets the light of day.

  7. Both marketing and technical issues need to be addressed in the development of an idea.
     We see this as a way to remind product developers of the need to emphasise the benefits the innovation will bring.  Marketing people make the distinction between product "features" and "benefits" - in other words, purchasers are looking for the improvements the product will bring, before being interested in the way the device works or how many "bells and whistles" it has.  This suggestion applies equally to any internal marketing the innovation team needs to do (as in Principle No. 7)

  8. Differences among people constitute a strength, not a weakness. Individuals can benefit from the opportunity to interact with other professionals from different perspectives.
     When innovating, some of the best and most surprising "solutions" to the problems you meet along the way often result from a naive question or whacky idea from someone in the team who does not have the "expert" viewpoint.  Diversity in a team gives you the chance to profit from this type of input - the suggestion which is not immediately dismissed as impossible.  With a homogeneous team, gaining insights in this way is much less likely.

  9. A mediator is often necessary to facilitate the communication of people from different cultures and who may possess clashing personalities.
     We would use the term Innovation Facilitator to describe the "mediator" referred to here.  We would not see the role as being primarily concerned with dealing with clashes of culture or personality, although a good facilitator does have to be sensitive to these issues and practised in dealing with them.  We have found that most people are willing to work together to solve a problem for which they are, in some way, responsible for solving.  The facilitator’s role is to scope the problem in advance, to devise a programme of innovation techniques to match the need, and then manage the group as it engages with the techniques.  Communication and debate is then focussed on "how do we solve this?" rather than "how do I score points off the others?".

  10. The most effective way to proceed is not necessarily the most efficient.
     It is interesting to find that many people are not clear about the difference between efficiency and effectiveness - indeed, in some languages a single word has come to be used for both concepts.  So, what do they mean?

    Effectiveness has been described as "doing the right thing" - in other words, producing the best result.  Efficiency has been described as "doing the thing right" - in other words by using the minimum of resources to achieve the result.  Of course you would normally hope to do both.  However, when innovating, there are usually pressures of time, resources and budgets which can overpower the need to capture distinctive benefits in the final product (or service).

    Source: Rosenfeld & Servo