What’s Innovation?

Over the past three weeks, I’ve posted three polls about innovation on LinkedIn — first, second, third. As of this writing, they’ve garnered a total of 2,495 views but just 41 votes. Those stats suggest at least four possibilities. I only know the fourth one to be true. But here they are:

First, the lack of a consistent or consensual definition of innovation may make people leery to vote at risk of sticking their necks out uncomfortably. As I’ve come to understand it, innovation is change — undertaken purposefully, grounded strategically, adopted systemically, and practiced systematically with discipline, a willingness to accept failure, a desire to learn from failure, and the ability to mitigate risk in the process. Is that a mouthful? Sure it is. But every element of that definition is necessary to innovate consistently and repeatedly.

Second, people may be unwilling to create the impression that they don’t know what they don’t know. That’s the very antithesis of innovation. As much as anything, innovation presupposes a willingness to fly in the face of what’s known — of the ordinary, the expected, and the status quo. Innovation rejects best practices in favor of new and better ways of doing things relentlessly. It’s the determination never to say, “We do it this way because this is the way we do it.” It’s the conviction that creativity is preferable to complacency, all the time, every day.

Third, it may be possible that traditional ways of doing things — allocating monetary and human resources to initiatives without changing processes, approaches, methodologies, or ways of thinking — constrain people to the extent that they can’t or won’t consider doing things in different ways. It could be fear of failure, fear of reproach, fear of change, fear of the unknown, or garden-variety insecurity. The root cause doesn’t matter. What does matter is that outcomes don’t change if the things being done to produce those outcomes don’t change.

Fourth, while the growing proliferation of ostensible innovation-management tools has caused them to become almost commoditized, there’s been no matrixed framework that comprises the requisite common tools, along with novel tools and capabilities, all of which are matrixed (interoperational) within a structured framework that enables organizations to innovate consistently; to continually bring new products, services, and/or business models to market; and to make their competition irrelevant.

That was then. This is now. Now there’s EinFrame.

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