So What Is This Thing Called Innovation Engineering

Last week the Innovation Engineering Institute team gathered  to think deeply.  One of the many outputs was the thought piece below on what Innovation Engineering is and how it works. Enjoy,



Innovation Engineering applies a systems mindset to innovation that enables you and your organization to DO COOL SHIT that Matters with Increased Speed and Decreased Risk. 

We enter our professional lives with hopes and dreams for how we’re going to make a difference with our education, our career, our lives.

Then life happens. We fight to get into a university - wrestle to get a job - joust to become the leader of our organization - or even scrape to create a company of our own.  Our dreams of youth become an exhausting stream of desperate college exams, meetings, bureaucracy, disappointments and “stuff.”

As our dreams of youth fade away we begin to believe that we are the problem.

The good news is you are NOT THE PROBLEM.  94% of your problem is your system.  Your system of thinking.  Only 6% is a result of your lack of ability.  This claim is not marketing puffery.  It’s grounded in the systems thinking of Dr. W. Edwards Deming.  It’s grounded in a new field of academic study called Innovation Engineering that is taught at pioneering universities around the world.  It’s grounded in the learnings and experiences of 26,000+ innovation pioneers and over $8 Billion USD in active innovations.  It’s enabled through training in 48 skills.  It’s supported with tools, documented techniques and software.

Innovation Engineering transforms how you think about innovation.  Instead of “gambling on creative guru’s” you are empowered and educated in how to make innovation a reliable system.  Even more important than the new growth, new sales, new profits your organization realizes is the satisfaction that comes with doing Cool Shit That Matters.  It means you are making a difference - individually and collectively.

Here’s how Sheldon Scott - CEO of the Whitney Blake Company describes his personal and professional transformation.

 This is the coolest place to be in the world!!!! 

I used to be the guy in your video with his head on the computer, saying there has to be a better WAY!!!

WE have found it! WE have found it!! Work is fun again!!!

Thank you to the whole Innovation Engineering Community!!! 

We are all in for the journey !!!!

Sheldon P Scott

Odds are you were never taught a system approach to the creation, communication and commercialization of ideas to market.    With the Innovation Engineering mindset you can innovate with increased speed and decreased risk. To be very specific you can turn your dreams into reality up to 6 times faster and with 30 to 80% less chances of screwing up.

NOTE:  Before I go further the team advices that I should explain our choice of words in our description.  The phrase “COOL SHIT that Matters” is used not simply to be provocative.  Rather, it precisely describes the end benefit that CEO’s and front line workers - say they receive when they are immersed in the Innovation Engineering mindset. 

 The basic innovation narrative is the cycle of life. Our dreams , companies, products, services, brands and even non profit organizations are born, they grow, decline and die.

With innovation the life cycle can be restarted and growth begins anew.  In effect, innovation offers us the option of never ending life.  Without innovation we go into decline, our offerings become commodities, we cut costs and soon we die.   Sadly, this is the narrative for many companies.  Reports indicate that as many as 75% of S&P 500 Companies disappear from the S&P list within 16 years.

A System Approach to Innovation

What makes Innovation Engineering unique is that it’s a system approach to accelerating innovation as opposed to a “guru” approach.

The Innovation Engineering system is built on a set of Five Pillars:


It is impossible to begin the innovation journey without agreement to:  1) WHAT is Innovation 2) WHY to Innovate and 3) HOW to Innovate.   Agreement as to What, Why and How to Innovate is the root cause for why most innovation initiatives fail. A survey of over 12,000  managers finds that 7 out of 10 are not in agreement that their organization even needs to innovate.   Without agreement among the masses of an organization even the most brilliant of ideas will struggle as it goes to market.

It is our belief that segmentation of organizations into those that innovate and those that don’t creates a dysfunctional culture.  Everyone can innovate.  However, many have come to believe that they can’t.   The truth is they were never taught.

To enable everyone to be able to Innovate we use a patent pending Cycles to Mastery teaching technology.   It’s a new system of education that enables everyone - no matter what their educational degree - or lack of education - or rank in the organization to develop the courage and confidence to Create, Communicate and Commercialize meaningfully unique ideas.   Enabling everyone to Do Cool Shit That Matters creates an energy for change that is addictive.


With Agreement we now face a challenge of where to focus the new found confidence and energy.   Pillar 2 is about gaining Alignment on WHERE we will innovate.   This Alignment is critical within an organization - it’s just as important for ourselves in our personal lives or even if we are dreaming of starting a business of our own.

Alignment is NOT “management by objective.”  Rather, it’s a strategic alignment process that involves three dimensions: 1. Vertical Alignment between the leadership's strategy and the worker’s tactical focus areas, 2. Horizontal Alignment across the organizational’s collection of departments and divisions and 3. Diagonal Alignment with current customers, thought leading customers, new customers and markets.

With Agreement and Alignment real momentum is ignited.  The organization starts moving forward - projects happen - people believe they can control their destiny.   However, the consequence of growing momentum for change is fear.

Pillar 3: COURAGE

As we stretch into the new and different - the old fear dragons of uncertainty and insecurity grow.  Research indicates that 8 out of 10 managers feel their organization has more fear than courage.

A motivational workshop will not dissolve fears.  What is needed is a new system of thinking and working.  It starts by acknowledging the fears as real and genuine.  Note: simply telling people to “take more risks” is a delusional strategy.

We take the fears, uncertainties and unknowns and re-label them as third person - project “Death Threats” and innovation “Milestones.”  By moving them from our  removes the ego from the challenge and allows the engagement of the innovation problem solving.

Their are three forms of Innovation Risks: 1) Market Risks - customers and market, 2) Technology Risks - the offering, R&D, production and delivery and 3) Company Risk - financial, strategic, regulatory.

Risks are dissolved using the Deming version of the Scientific Method known as Plan, Do, Study, Act cycles of learning.  The cycles range from one hour to one day or week.  They are also commonly known as Fail FAST Fail CHEAP cycles of learning to provide a shield to protect our ego that has been taught that we must get 100% on all exams, presentations and work projects.

Pillar 4: CAPACITY

Our new cultural and personal courage causes an exponential leap in our confidence.  However, at this point we find that organizations run into major development capacity challenges.   Challenging people to simply work harder will not make a sustainable difference.

What’s needed is a new system of thinking about Collaboration.  It starts by transforming the purpose projects from rewarding our personal ego because I  “did it all myself” to a focus on accomplishment of the mission by building our capacity through “collaborating to win.”

Collaboration involves both across departments within our organization and outside our organization.  Again - simply telling people to collaborate won’t accomplish it.  Research indicates that 9 out of 10 managers don’t feel their organization “collaborates to get the job done.”

External Collaboration requires development of an Innovation Supply Chain system that connects suppliers, vendors, distributors, experts and end users.  Done right - there the momentum of change and the resources to make it happen with a speed that meets the accelerated global economy of today.


With Agreement, Alignment, Courage and Capacity innovations are happening.  However, given the effort expended it’s critical that we due the diligence to protect and sustain our advantage.

We maximize our competitive advantage by implementing a structured system for growing Patent ROI.  The starting point is education.  98%+ of managers don’t understand the progressive changes that have been made in the world’s patent systems.

Patents are imagination transformed into a tangible capital asset.   Patents celebrate innovation however the system that organizations use to file, acquire, buy, sell and trade patents has not itself been innovated.

The publishing of an academic article that has been peer reviewed is a tangible contribution to the world.  So too, a patent is a clear and tangible quantification of global innovation.  Organizations that embrace an Innovation Mindset set as a clear goal that every innovation project result in ideas that are so unique that they can support one or more patent applications.  This includes system ideas improvements - services - even non profit organizations.  Note: we state can support because in some cases the organization might decide to maintain the learning as a trade secret instead of filing a patent.

The new mindset pushes patenting to those close to the work. It involves advanced training, tools and techniques for making patents or intellectual capital - a viable part of how organizations build their company valuation.

The Five Pillars of Innovation Engineering are tangible.  They are each supported with Training, Tools and documented Techniques.   Core to success with implementation is development of Innovation Engineering Black Belts.  The Black Belts provide leadership, coaching and most important of all a structured approach to customization of the training, tools and documented techniques to fit the organization’s culture.

To learn more or to become an Innovation Engineering Black Belt call us at 513 271-9911 in the USA.