The Top 3 Innovation System Insights from 2017


Asking yourself to go up on the mountain to review all you’ve learned from a year of innovation systems work and boil it down to 3 things is no small feat.  But without it, how can you know where to go next?

At the 2017 Innovation Engineering Annual Conference I presented 3 learnings from the past year.  In a year of 1,000 moments and lots of changes, discerning the random events and special causes took some true consideration.  But in the end, I landed on the largest and most impactful things that I believe make the biggest difference in making innovation possible in a team or organization.

1.  Leadership is pivotal in the sustained success of innovation.  Whether your a 1-person company and that leadership is you or a CEO of thousands, your active and consistent engagement in innovation is paramount to making innovation happen (or not).  In a recent panel discussion the proactive CEO of Bose answered it well.  He was asked how often his mind and actions are focused on building, reinforcing and supporting a culture of innovation.  His response:  All of it.  All of the time.  And I never plan to stop.

2.  Everyone needs more education than they think and that you think.  Innovation is a many-level thing.  The more experience you have with it, the more you realize there is to learn.  And in fact, we find that those with a learning mindset are some of the best at innovation.  Some say it takes 10,000 hours to master something.  Other research points to the experience curve where you gain 25% more efficiency with every doubling of experience.  Air force pilots track skill usage and how it erodes over time without active use.  Net, we need to educate.  We need to learn.  We’ll be better and more capable innovations if we do.

3.  It’s the system stupid.  In data tracking 100,000+ managers across industries it’s clear.  There is a widespread agreement that the need for innovation is urgent and important (90th percentile).  But when those same managers rate their internal systems and capability to innovate…rating their current innovation system (15th percentile), systems for alignment (5th percentile), collaboration (10th percentile), rapid research to make fact based decisions (5th percentile), systems for learning (15th percentile) and even intellectual property…they fail miserably.  Net, it is as Dr. W. Edward Deming professed:  94% of the failures are due to the system, 6% are due to the worker.

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If you don’t already, I strongly encourage you to hold Learning Summits where each person on your team shares what they’ve discovered.  Not only will stop the hamster wheel of short term “put out the fire!” thinking, but it bring clarity and renewed importance to your work. It’s a wonderful opportunity to grow the knowledge base and feed your brain.