The Innovation Killer - PCC - ebook

"Knowledge is good,"" preaches the inscription under the statue of college founder Emil Faber in the film Animal House. But as valid as that declamation may be at a university, in the corporate world what passes for knowledge can be a killer. Companies and teams rely on ""what we know"" and ""the way we do things here"" to speed decision making and maintain a sense of order. But progress demands change, risk taking, and occasionally, revolution. Processes must be overhauled, assumptions challenged, taboos broken. But how do you do it? Who among the group will take responsibility for a brand new initiative or unorthodox decision? Who will be willing to stand up and say, in essence, that the emperor has no clothes? As much as we laud the concept of ""thinking outside of the box,"" most of us think it s a lot safer to stay inside. It s time to call in a ""zero-gravity thinker"" who is not weighed down by the twin innovation killers -- GroupThink and its close cousin, ExpertThink. Such outsiders are in plentiful supply, whether from the department down the hall, the branch office, a consulting firm or even another company. Unburdened by all the nagging issues that plague even very effective groups, the outsider will know new ways around a problem, identify possibilities where none seemed to exist, and spot potential problems before they spin out of control. According to The Innovation Killer, the right zero gravity thinker will ideally possess the following traits: Psychological distance: the most important tool of the impartial observer, it enables him or her to maintain an open mind. Renaissance tendencies: a wide range of interests, experiences, and influences more readily inspires innovative approaches. Related expertise: strength in a relevant area may lead to ""intersection points"" at which solutions are often found. The book helps identify when and why you should call in a collaborator, where to find one, and how you and your team can start working with him or her. There are also strategies for turning yourself into a zero-gravity thinker when it s simply not practical to bring in a true outsider. Knowledge is good, except when it trumps real innovation. Whether your team is too focused on the forest or can t see past the trees, this book will help you add the perspective you need to make the great decisions that will move your company forward.

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Thinking innovatively is a challenge for many organizations because it requires a rather delicate balancing act. On the one hand, creative ideas need to draw on some specific and well established expertise, but at the same time, the conventional thinking needs to be challenged. The trick lies in getting this balance just right.

In practice, highly creative organizations bring in outsiders who are not weighed down unduly by the“way things have always been done.”These outsiders come with a fresh perspective, and therefore exercise what can be described as“zero-gravity”thinking—that is, clear thinking that is unfettered by established practices, internal politics or any other impediments. These temporary team members can then push people to think outside the limits of their existing mindset.

Zero-gravity thinking directly addresses the human side of innovation. It is based on the fact that every invention, every great idea and every breakthrough product is the brainchild of a real person or a group of people combining their thoughts and talents.

Zero-gravity thinkers are team members who help everyone escape the weight of what is known so some creative thinking can take place. The three pillars of zero-gravity thinking are:

Why Innovation Is Difficult for Most Organizations

When innovating, human nature is an obstacle that must be overcome. Our thinking is constrained by the fact that we accept blithely what others have said and what the experts say is possible or impossible. All of this limits our field of vision and puts blinders on our thinking. To innovate successfully, we need to put aside what is known and let our imaginations run free. We need to break away from what we know, what our organization believes and what the experts in our field accept as the established boundaries.

Five Stumbling Blocks to Innovation

Innovation is defined as“the development and application of an original idea that results in a valuable improvement being made.”Some innovations are breakthroughs(radical departures from what was used before), while others are incremental improvements on existing ideas.

Everyone loves the idea of being innovative because it can be highly profitable. If you or your organization can come up with a break-through idea, it can make a huge difference in the marketplace. Yet despite this appreciation of the benefits of being innovative, many organizations find it difficult to innovate. Because of the following five stumbling blocks:

■ Organizational resistance—in some organizations, new ideas need to pass through numerous filters of various kinds before they get picked up on. These filters may consist of requiring management approval, needing resources to be made available or even something as simple as expecting new ideas to come from the top down rather than the bot-tom up. It isn’t at all unusual for these filters to block off any promising new ideas that don’t have the right backing or pedigree.

■ Human nature—human nature often resists new and original thinking. People naturally assume that if an idea is good, everyone would already be using it. So in line with that sentiment, people often don’t even bother to dream up new ideas.

■ Company policy—company policy may require new ideas to be backed up with facts and figures that nobody has any chance of generating. Or all kinds of other stringent management policies may provide other disincentives.

■ Inertia—there is a tendency for organizations to succumb to inertia—they want to keep doing what they have always done. Disruptive innovations that get in the way of the company’s operations are therefore frowned upon and discouraged.

■ Office politics—internal politics and turf wars can get in the way. People may be reluctant to integrate a new innovation because it will upset the current division of power and resources within the company.

Two Social Phenomena That Limit Innovation

In all, it's reasonably safe to assume that factors other than the technical merits of a new innovation can have an inordinate influence on any organization's ability to innovate. These factors can be present even when management are outwardly enthusiastic about being innovative.

There are, however, two key innovation inhibitors that most organizations run into again and again:

■ GroupThink