How Can You Jump Start Innovation?

by Jay Deragon on 09/14/2015

jumpstart innovation

To thrive in 2015 and beyond the name of the business game is innovation. But that is a business game that requires more than a new marketing label or adding a new feature to an old product. It requires creating new things and doing things differently.

Finding new things can be difficult if not impossible because it is not predictable, tangible or certain but it is a requirement to be a market leader. It is also extremely difficult to do using the same mental models that framed the ways and things you’ve always produced and done for the same customers year after year.

New things come from innovation and innovation is everywhere these days. The demand for innovation has 6 out of 10 CEOs making it a priority focus or one of their priorities according to a survey of PWC. So one may wonder what this intangible thing is called innovation that seems so necessary for an organization to thrive in 2014.

Let’s see how others have defined innovation:

  • An innovation is something original, new, and important – in whatever field – that breaks in to (or obtains a foothold in) a market or society.
  • It’s not the same as invention, although folks often confuse the two. Invention is a unique discovery or finding; innovation is introducing something new.
  • Innovation can be an application of someone else’s invention in a new and practical way.
  • In Innovators Don’t See Different Things – They See Things Differently, Steve Tobak writes about what Malcolm Gladwell calls the Creation Myth: which is an innovator may not be the guy who comes up with the idea but the guy who turns that idea into something people can use.

So the collective meaning of innovation can be summed up as:  something new, original, useful and meaningful enough that it transforms the markets behavior from one state to another. Read it again and ask yourself who is really bringing innovation that changes the markets behavior.

Many organizations say they have or are about to release innovative products as if just saying the word makes it true. Consider nearly half of the S&P 500 used the word “innovation” in their Q3 conference calls. Shane Snow said it best “If you go around telling people you’re humble, the opposite is true.”Humble” is a descriptor that’s bestowed not seized. The same is true with “innovation.”

Innovation Doesn’t Follow It Leads

In a connected marketplace of consumers with growing influence innovation is the magnet of attraction that fuels the influence. Entire markets have been changed by Apple’s products, Google’s search engine capabilities, Facebook’s network effects and many others who have introduced disruptive innovations.

Innovation is the fuel of the 21st century. Innovation provides the value stakeholders and stockholders seek.  Stakeholders get enormous value out of using innovation while stockholders gain economic value from massive consumption of innovation. Just how much value? Instagram’s entire company was only 12 employees creating value for over 150 million users when Facebook bought them for a billion dollars.

 So how can your company create innovation?

Most organizations create “innovation task force,” to help them seize the future. The fact that they need an internal group with the name “innovation” means it’s not going to work. Internal groups waste too much time brainstorming old ideas that fit into the same old mental models of the existing organization or industry being served. Rarely does anything new or innovative come from internal committee’s or “innovation task forces”.

There are three primary innovation structures used in corporations today: skunk works, intrapreneur programs, and innovation labs. History has shown that none of them work for disruptive, new product development.

There is a new model emerging aimed at helping businesses jump-start the innovation discovery process through a creative approach involving internal and external resources.

The internal resources start with your culture and end with your business model. The external resources start with the market you aim to serve and end with the actual customers you do serve.  Makes sense?


Pierre Goens December 10, 2013 at 11:57 am

Jay, your last sentence sums up our ability to innovate and create. I put it this way…Take all the criteria, pro and con, you find relevant. Add the mixture to the best tool in your box, your mind. Walk away. Let your creative mind go to work. You can either solve a problem, or you can unnecessarily create one with forced thought. I find wasting time trying to solve a problem is kinda dumb, since I created it in the first place. give me a real puzzle to solve. Ok mind, I’ll leave you alone so you can go to work.

Mewa Singh December 10, 2013 at 8:43 am
Susan Krautbauer December 10, 2013 at 7:28 am

@Tom Hoster. Tom, you are spot on…in order to innovate we have to break the internal mold and be willing to examine ‘wild hair’ ideas. Crowdsourcing ideas with a solid framework for response, using a platform like Organised Feedback, takes the free association of idea collection and makes them actionable to the company. If you are looking for a case study in now to execute innovation successfully inside a large corporate environment, look no further than Australian company AMP. Innovation Exec Annalie Killian has transformed AMP thru an award winning innovation process which is getting world notice. @Debbie Narver. Innovation strategies CAN be successful, but the top corp execs must be willing to drive, and reward, the entire process, which is outside their comfort zone – key words are reward and process!

Tom Hoster December 10, 2013 at 1:23 am

Large companies can truly foster innovation by taking advantage of crowdsourcing it — using software like the kind Brightidea offers.

Wilburn Keith Miller December 9, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Our concept of innovation? Our people. Reinventing innovation can be accomplished by having an organization that provides top-notch customer service. All organizations have issue – management, employees, bottom-line, delays – however, with an employee that will take a “new” look on customer service, an organization can live and grow, in any economy. Most important in the article is that we don’t need to “see different things,” we need to “see things differently.” So why can’t we see the customer differently? Wow – that means we can also see innovation differently. Some would say this is an old idea. As long as it works.

Ralph Cochrane December 9, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Another option is to look to the web for pools of talent that can help you. There are specialist agencies, like the one I work for, who run innovation contests and also provide the best talent to work with you direct. We call this open innovation. It can be a cost effective way to kick-start or test key areas of interest.

Debbie Narver December 9, 2013 at 10:52 am

Some very good points. As with any good concept, people can overuse the term and lose sight of the real meaning. Organizations also need to consider whether or not they have the culture to support innovation. I have seen some that put it in their value statements, but constantly reward people for following rules and punish those who take risks and make mistakes. No task force can be successful when they fear the consequences of failure.

Jay Deragon December 9, 2013 at 11:16 am

Excellent point Debbie. Culture drives everything and without the right culture there can be no innovation just words.

greg uhrmacher December 10, 2013 at 3:14 am

But Social Media Influences Culture right but wait social media was invented by multiple cultures and the expansion of micro economic forces. HMM maybe in 2014 mass media will influence children to get their parents to spend there hard earned money on some companies sociology I am just taking a guess anybody have any thoughts

Chanda Monroe-Williams December 9, 2013 at 9:23 am

I anxiously await what follows. I had the opportunity to read a few of your other articles, and find the accompanied discussions to be interesting. Best wishes! (Smart phone has a mind of its own)


Chanda Monroe-Williams December 9, 2013 at 9:21 am

I anxious await what follows. I had the opportunity to read a few of your other articles, and find the account discussion to be interesting. Best wishes!

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