Chasing Innovation Inside Doesn’t Work

by Jay Deragon on 02/06/2014

stop-chasing-ordinaryThe holy grail of the 21st century is innovation. 85% of the Fortune 500 annual reports mentions innovation as an organizational priority in 2014 and beyond. Everyone seems to be chasing innovation but without a roadmap about how to find it.

We’re living in an interesting time where the rate of innovation around the world is exploding, and a company that is dependent upon innovation within their four walls is ultimately going to fail,” said Peter Diamandis, executive chairman of Singularity University and CEO of the X Prize Foundation.

Those that have recognized that they can’t find it internally are now trying to buy it externally. Consider:

  1. In April last year, General Electric Co. invested $105 million for a 10% stake in Pivotal, a new venture created from operations spun out of EMC Corp. subsidiary VMware Inc. GE’s Software Center, based in San Ramon, Calif., will use Pivotal’s software to develop new applications that support its vision of the industrial Internet.
  2. Target Corp. celebrated the opening of its innovation center in the historic Folgers Coffee building in San Francisco. The retailer is looking for technologies that impact its core commerce, such as search on its e-commerce site and the use of social networking. CIO Beth Jacobs told CIO Journal that Target wants to personalize the shopping experience both online and in stores for customers
  3.  Microsoft Corp. announced Microsoft Ventures which expanded company programs to offer startups with technology ability and investment money.  The company expanded its accelerator programs worldwide, offering startups office space, mentorship and $60,000 of Windows Azure credits. By the end of 2013, roughly 120 companies had spent several months in a Microsoft accelerator and 85% of those companies had found funding within six months of the demo day Microsoft sponsors at the end of the program.
  4. Last summer, startups attended Time Warner Inc.’s Media Camp accelerator,which Turner Broadcasting operates with Warner Bros. Entertainment. “Instead of resisting the disruption we thought it was better to embrace it,” said Balaji Gopinath, vice president of emerging technology at Turner and founder of Media Camp. It let Turner get a fresh perspective on the media industry.
  5. Executives from Hershey Co. and other Fortune 500 companies attended Singularity University’s 5-day Innovation Partnership Program to learn about 3-D printing, artificial intelligence and robotics. Executives including Michael Wege, senior vice president, chief growth and marketing officer at Hershey learned about advances in 3-D printing that now make it possible to use additive manufacturing process to “print” sugar cubes. “We’re here because we do understand the dynamic forces of the exponential change that’s happening and the ways in which that’s going to transform all industries and certainly our industry as well,” said Mr. Wege.

Innovation Isn’t Found By Chasing

Jeff DeGraffThe Dean of Innovation, Best-selling Author and Professor at University of Michigan writes: Innovation doesn’t happen in straight lines. It happens in cycles. Imagine that you’re walking up a mountain, going in a circle. That’s how innovation works. It’s highly iterative. Many people mistakenly think that they already know everything in the beginning. In reality, you don’t know anything in the beginning. The object of going around in circles rather than in a simple straight line is that you’re going to learn things along the way. In innovation, there’s a lot of twisting, turning, and doubling-back. It’s about paying attention to what we know now and what we learn from experience and experiments.

The biggest thing to understand about innovation is this: it’s never fully realized. There is no “there.” If you’ve developed the miracle drug, there’s always another miracle drug to make. If you’ve developed the great restaurant, there’s always a second restaurant. There’s always somebody pushing back with an alternative so that you have to keep moving forward. We’ve never fully arrived—whenever we get where we think we wanted to get, there’s a new place to reach.

Chasing innovation from the inside looks like running around inside a box. Real innovation is always outside the box.

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