While this might not be our own headline, we'll agree that Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen, via their article in FastCoDesign, ask a very interesting, timely question. The word "innovation" has been thrown around so much over the past few years that many will agree that it's lost its heft, its impact. If you tell me you're "very innovative," then chances are I'll quickly assume the opposite (or at least something more tempered). Please don't tell me, show me. As the article cites, one interesting example is Philips, which created the first electric razors, the compact cassette, the CD, and so on - but good luck naming something so impactful that they've created of late, even though they're at all of the innovation and design conferences we can name.
Granted, all of this focus on innovation comes from, at least I'd say, a great place - companies and communities large and small realizing it's time to think a bit differently. Make something that's indeed better, and not just some incremental change from whatever we've idly gotten used to. But it's honestly easier said than done to be "innovative" or "disruptive" (let alone a "unique," "award-winning" "leader" who "thinks outside the box").
So, how does a company today - or ever - actually innovate? Well, that's too big a question for a brief Monday morning blog post, though we would love to hear your theories here. For one, bringing in some innovation consultants to "solve" this problem for a few weeks is probably not it. One idea posited in the article focuses on the people, not the new innovation processes in place: "People with strong, creative talents are essential to the development of innovations, and the difference between success and disaster is largely defined by the selection of a good team--not by its processes."
As someone lucky enough to work in a firm full of a carefully chosen, talented (I'll add fabulous) people, of course I would agree. It's not only a way to deliver A+ solutions, but to have one of the most fulfilling, supported professional experiences one can ask for. But I would also add that once you find these people, be sure to give them the freedom to put these talents to use. A year ago, I was lucky enough to attend a talk given by Beth Comstock, GE's Senior Vice President and CMO, who sets aside an "experimental project" budget every year, whose work does not need to be factored in to the company's earnings goals. This gives that experimental work room to actually be risky - to not have to be "innovative" and "creative" while at the same time somehow produce huge earnings immediately, or ever. It just made sense to me.
What would you add to the pot? Theories, or personal experiences, that speak to making changes to and continually evolving one's own company, or one's own life? We look forward to hearing.
“Designing is pleasure for me” – Eva Zeisel
Eva Zeisel, a ceramic artist and designer, whose graceful designs for dinnerware in the 1940s and ’50s helped to revolutionize the way Americans perceive their kitchenware, died on Friday in New City, N.Y. Eva Zeisel was the first-ever to have a one-woman show at MOMA in 1946. She left us at the elegant age of 105.