Innovation Whac-A-Mole

Whac-A-MoleHere is a brief excerpt from an article written by Henry Doss for Forbes magazine. To read the complete article, check out other resources, obtain subscription information, and sign up for email alerts, please click here.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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“Cast-iron rules are above all things to be avoided.” — Bertrand Russell

Who’s interested in learning more about how to create an “innovation culture”?

Most of us are, and most of us want to know more about best practices, and powerful, vetted ideas and workable strategies for innovation. But reading the daily onslaught of innovation tips clogging up our media aggregators, our Twitter feeds, our social media, our blogs, our email — the list goes on – can sometimes feel like “Innovation Whac-A-Mole.”

The game goes something like this: Over there an “innovation leadership” mole pops up, so we take a whack at that. Instantly, a new innovation mole pops up: “Allow more time for innovation.” So, we take a swing at that one. Then another: “Run your meetings without agendas.” So we take a whack at that one (with a justifiable sense of skepticism). And so on, until we retire from the innovation field confused, frustrated, skeptical and thoroughly disillusioned, with little to show except for some whacked-up innovation moles.

Why so many moles, so many varied (and often contradictory) ideas and strategies and notions about innovation floating around? As William of Ockham would suggest, the most useful answer is probably the simplest: We are confused because we are conflating innovation, invention and initiative. And in order to have intelligent, focused innovation strategies, we need to distinguish what it is we are talking about. Here is one possible distinction:

Innovation is about culture, or organizational “ways of being”; invention is about output or “shiny things”; and initiatives are death sentences. The challenge is making sure that you are very clear which one of these three you are talking about at any one point in time.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Henry Doss: “I write about innovation, leadership, and the humanities.” To read his other articles, please click here.

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