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THE ART OF LEARNING TO INNOVATE

Posted by Ayesha Patel 8 May 2018 Innovation Consultancy

Although in years past it was generally believed that innovative types had an innate set of skills, personality traits or even genetics, more recently we have begun to accept that innovation is something that anyone can be taught or learn. While some may be more suited to innovating, this does not mean that others do not have the capacity to do so. As job roles and department divisions become increasingly blurred and more and more of us are required to display a propensity for innovation and a capacity to think creatively, remembering this will become ever more important.

So how can we learn innovation? There are hundreds of books you can read about the concept, but turning this information into actionable insights is important if you are going to foster your innovation skills at a personal or organisational level. Here are a few ways you can learn to innovate and hone the skills you need to make it a success. 

MASTER THE BASICS

According to an article by Angèle Beausoleil, Assistant Professor of Business Design and Innovation at the University of Toronto, the innovate or die mentality has left many leaping into the innovation process without first mastering the basics. She argues that ‘most [organisations] jump in without first asking why, how or what they are seeking to change. Asking the right question at the right time is critical to succeed at innovation adoption.’

For Beausoleil, these right questions can include asking why you are seeking to change your offering, whether you want to change how you operate or organise yourself, or in fact you should design and deliver a new offering. Answering these questions can determine what kind of innovation an organisation wants and needs, which can in turn guide and lead the process that follows.

But how does someone new to innovation know which questions to ask? This is where mastering the basics before launching in to a grand plan of innovation becomes most important. Beausoleil believes putting together a simple recipe for innovation, complete with ingredients and steps, can help in this matter. Some of the initial steps she suggests are:

1. Ask yourself what you need to change. (Product, service, position?) 

2. Gather a team that represents all key stakeholders for that change across functions, systems and markets (your key ingredients)

3. Prepare an innovation intent framework that is part need-finding, part problem-framing and part problem-solving.

4. Collect and combine need-finding data, then form insights.

Starting out in this way enables you to build a process that answers the fundamental questions needed to start your innovation process in a positive way and learn the skills needed to make this endeavour a success.

UNDERSTAND INNOVATION AS A PROCESS AND COMBINATION 

There is a tendency to think of innovation as a single eureka moment and that once this moment has occurred, innovators can simply sit back and watch their inventions unfold. Yet this view of innovation is not only overly simplistic but also damaging to innovation itself, as it does not accurately represent the reality of the field.

To combat these false expectations, learning to see innovation as a process and a combination of differing skill sets and expertise from across industries is vital if you are going to foster a positive relationship with innovation.

For Forbes contributor and author of Mapping Innovation, Greg Satell, these are the first two rules anyone seeking to learn innovation should embrace. Reminding us that ‘Alan Turing came up with the idea of a universal computer in 1936, but it wasn’t until 1946 that one was actually built and not until the 1990’s that computers began to impact productivity statistics,’ Satell emphasises that ‘innovation is never a single event.’ He explains that ‘the discovery of an insight, the engineering [of] a solution and then the transformation of an industry or field [is] almost never achieved by one person or even within one organization.’

Similarly, Satell believes that ‘great innovation almost never occurs within one field of expertise, but is almost invariably the product of synthesis across domains.’ By understanding that innovation is not a one-person job and that learning from other domains is vital for success, we will be better able to learn innovation and continue to foster our development in this area. 

By adopting the above and building a strong foundation of basics before embarking on the innovation process, it is possible to learn innovation constructively and have a deeper understanding of its salient features before embarking upon your innovation journey.

As global innovation specialists we aim to help and encourage people and organizations to become more nimble, boosting their ability to generate ideas. We bring pace and focus to your innovation initiatives using our unique innovation techniques, which are constantly being developed by our professional licensees. If you’re interested in becoming a licensee for the think team, contact us here.

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