Saturday, January 25, 2014

Innovation & Simplicity

Innovation is progress, and progress is in simplicity. 

Innovation is the light every forward-looking organization is pursuing now; however, very few companies can well articulate their innovation process. Effective innovation requires a suitable process as part of the wider holistic 'system' for innovation, encompassing other key aspects such as culture, leadership, and strategy, but how to follow the simplicity principle when managing innovation. The following five quotes may bring certain insight.

  • The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak   -Hofmann: The process needs to be part of the DNA of a company, as it may well reflect its business culture-bureaucratic or innovative; is your innovation management too complex with heavy centralized process attempted to 'manage' simple employee ideas. Such ideas should be reviewed, selected and developed locally using a simply empowered process.
  • If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough -Einstein: Innovation is the process to transform novel ideas into products/service and achieve its business value. Although more often, innovations come from bottom up, innovation management is derived from a vision, coming from top management and shared by top management with all its employees in order to profit from it. Besides vision, communication is the key to streamlining innovation process and bridging idea creation and implementation.
  • Things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler-Einstein: Innovation processes fall into one of two camps; one is so detailed and specific such that compliance with the process is impractical, or it is so high level and abstracted from the issues at hand that they do not provide useful guidance or lack of formal process. Something more balanced and interpreted is called for, but then it wouldn't be a "process", at least as currently defined. Innovation process needs to be agile and flexible. 

  • Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction  -Einstein:  When pioneering and solving problems, initial solutions are often more complex than required, and then adoption and progress come with simplification. Progress is in simplification, which often follows complexity. Either innovation process or innovation itself should move up the maturity ladder from functioning, firm to delight and agility.

  • The future of managers leads by questioning –Drucker:  Innovation takes the cycle of observing-questioning-connecting-networking-experimenting. Thought-provoking questions can frame a structure for innovation process and clarify the logic behind every step, Today, the biggest talent gap is in what refers to as “big judgment”-the art and science of knowing what questions to ask, how to discern actionable, strategically useful insights from the investment in resources to ensure innovation success.  

Either incremental innovation or breakthrough innovation, a structured process help select the best of the best ideas, and best focus on organization’s limited resources, But keep the process simple, not simpler; as innovation is progress, and progress is in simplicity.


With thanks for this article.
In the early 90' s Edward de Bono published "Simplicity", which today exists as a business course available through de Bono Thinking Systems. It is one of our key values.

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