Trying to innovate in your small business is often perceived as a situation where “the less structure, the better.” Just throw some beanbag chairs in an empty room, grab a whiteboard and some colored markers, buy some highly caffeinated beverages and let your staff spout the wildest, craziest ideas they can think of. Voila, innovation!
In reality, successful innovation requires systems and procedures that can be replicated, and that have been shown to lead to ideas that aren’t just “cool,” but have practical value and can be implemented in your business. With that in mind, this week I’m taking a look at three useful blogs focused on innovation theory and systems.
This is the blog of OVO, an innovation consulting firm that works with Fortune 5000 firms and academic institutions to create repeatable, sustainable innovation. Blogger Jeffrey Phillips cuts through the hype that currently surrounds innovation in the business world to focus on how innovation can add value, and how processes such as scenario planning and trend spotting can enable innovation without stifling creativity. Recent posts focused on topics as diverse as innovation lessons from the space shuttle launch and how pop stars like Rihanna create songs (or, rather, have songs created for them). Phillips’ engaging writing style makes the posts enjoyable reading, but you’ll also gain valuable business lessons from each one.
With the tagline “the corporate perspective on innovation methods,” this blog, by innovation researcher and author Drew Boyd, focuses on how to use an effective, repeatable and trainable innovation process. Boyd believes there are five simple patterns that can be extracted and applied to any product or service to create innovations. Each month, the blog’s “The LAB” column demonstrates how to use these innovation methods on a reader-submitted product or service. A recent example focused on how a company could innovate with its in-house training methods. Other monthly columns include “Innovation Sighting,” which deconstructs how innovation methods are used in real-world innovations; "Marketing Innovation," which demonstrates innovation templates for advertising and marketing; and "Academic Focus," which highlights an institution or professor helping to bring innovation tools to the real world.
Blogger Keith Sawyer is an author and scientist who studies creativity. In addition to scientific research, his blog looks at creativity in business, culture and technology. A recent post discussed the concept of “flow” (getting so wrapped up in an activity that you lose all sense of time) and whether people who experience flow when innovating make the best innovators. Sawyer examines several research studies that suggest they’re actually not, and drives home the practical implications: “If you’re overly focused on the pure joy of your own personal flow state, you might end up being less usefully creative in the context of [a] real-world organization.” This is not light reading, but Sawyer slices and dices the research for you and always extrapolates a practical lesson.
If your current innovation system consists of nothing more than some Red Bull and a blank whiteboard, reading any or all of these process-oriented blogs will help you innovate more consistently—and more successfully.