Is it possible to teach innovation and can you really change the way people think and unlock their hidden creativity for commercial results?
Innovation can be defined simply as the commercialisation of new ideas. The process of innovating is thus discovering a great idea such as a new product, service, process or experience, matching it to a viable business model and getting it adopted by customers. The process starts with creative thinking and finishes with commercial success in the market.
In essence teaching innovation is supporting an organisation to think and act like an entrepreneur. This can be done through leadership, creative tools and techniques and adopting an agile approach.
Leadership is required to set-up the organisation so that innovation can thrive. An organisation without a strategy, a structure to allow free flow of ideas and adequate resources is unlikely to nurture innovation. The leadership challenge is to develop a culture of innovation by encouraging and empowering employees to deliver innovation and acting as an entrepreneurial role model.
The way we think is shaped by our experience and education which although efficient makes it difficult to think freely. According to research, creativity is influenced by the person, the environment and the thinking process itself. To allow creative thinking to happen critical thinking must be delayed.
Creative problem solving tools and techniques take away perceived constraints and change perspectives to encourage free thinking. Strict rules to suspended judgment and welcome all ideas are applied with the discipline of generating many ideas first before focussing on options.
A radical technique for example is to reverse a problem to explore how to make the situation considerably worse before flipping it back to uncover a new innovative idea. These techniques are typically facilitated in a group setting to get the benefit from multiple perspectives and build engagement for the selected ideas. Teaching tools & techniques will improve creative thinking.
The best way to stop an innovation is to prevent it from getting to the market. Once an idea has been chosen and matched to a viable business model it needs to be tested in the market as soon as possible to gain valuable learnings and understand what is required to make it a market success.
Teaching the agile approach with the principal of minimum viable product (MVP) and prototyping to learn fast in market and adapt will result in more successful innovations.
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