synergistic effort moves everyone forward

EDANA Interview

A recent interview on Textile World’s website had EDANA’s Scientific & Technical Affairs Director, Marines Lagemaat, asking question of keynote speaker Omar Hoek, executive vice president at Ahlstrom-Munksjö.

They were speaking about how difficult it is to manage innovation and many companies used a stage-gate process.  Mr. Hoek commented that the desire to manage using a stage-gate process came from wanting a clear predictable target and trying to organize efforts around current business infrastructure: structural, budgeting and accountability.

Also, he said that today we see many different types of innovation: fast pace and sometimes slow-paced, random behaviors, existing versus new technology, with or without external partners and more. “
It gets very complex,” he stated, “to make a one size fits all model for … innovation.”

It’s true that business loves predictability and structure. Innovations are often “revolutionary” or disruptive and so appears at odds with predictable core systems and structure. But nothing is further from the truth. Innovators love to take things that appear to be at odds and create synergies. That’s one of the things I love most about innovation.

So what do I mean?

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Don’t Hesitate Wait, or Debate; Instead, Innovate

March through the Steps of Innovation

Global market
Need to compete
Outsource pressures
Slipping balance sheet.
 
Must differentiate
So, go innovate!
Innovate!
Innovate.
(Yeeeah, Innovate!)
 

This is today’s rallying cry. Businesses leaders intone it, government officials cantillate it, employees worry about it, and whole industries are moving to embrace it. We call it ‘innovation cheerleading’ because lots of people know innovation will help us compete, therefore they talk about it; but very few people know how to do it, so… they talk about it.

  • It is not enough to just speak about the importance of innovation.
  • It’s not enough to just generate lots and lots of ideas. Brainstorming is not the same as innovation.
  • And finally, it is not enough to just support innovation – this is critical to understand. Supporting innovation or creating an environment of innovation is nice to have but it is not necessary.

Innovation is produced by taking step-by-step action, by marching through a process that delivers results. Yes; there is a structured methodology for innovation, as counter-intuitive as that seems.

For some gifted few this process is instinctive and happens repeatably (Edison, G. Washington Carver, Eliza Murfey and Marion Donovan). For the vast majority, however, the act of innovation is like a lightning strike. It happens infrequently and below the surface of consciousness; therefore, there is no control and it is nearly impossible to manage.

As executives, we need innovation to become procedural within our organization. We need to schedule, track, and measure it. Once it is manageable it’s as useful as other business processes: cost reduction, Lean, optimization, new product development, inventory turns, and supply chain management. We need innovation to be repeatable, predictable, and positively impact our bottom line and align with our priorities.
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fantasy representation of enzyme in channel

Structured Innovation – Inventiveness as a methodology

A computer has invented! And it wasn’t just blindly following an algorithm. As I understand it, a computer called “Adam”* was programmed to carry out the entire scientific innovation process on its own. It formulated hypotheses. It designed and ran experiments. It analyzed the resulting data and then decided which experiments to run next. The computer incorporates artificial intelligence. This robotic system made a novel scientific discovery with virtually no human intellectual input (2009) and can utilize the scientific method.

Most of us who are serial inventors go through the innovation process so quickly, it seems like a single stroke of brilliance (I say with a modest tuck of my chin). But in fact, if we break down what is happening, there is a step-by-step process and this process has been studied for over 60 years.
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Structured Innovation is NOT an oxymoron

Avatar Picture of DaynaWhen we solve inventive-level problems the human brain goes through a series of procedural steps. Because this ‘strategy and process of invention’ has been studied for decades, innovation has become structured, as odd as that seems.

Most people have breakthroughs so quickly they are completely unaware of their own mental processes. But the fact remains, every one of us solves tough problems with a strategy and process whether we are aware of that process or not. All of us do it; and we follow the process every time we solve tough problems.Continue reading