The heart of innovation: Part 2

In our ongoing series that looks at innovation, we hear from several Zintro experts about how they define and relate to innovation.

Romain Ichbiah, an expert in strategy and innovation, says that innovators are rebels with a thirst for breaking conventions, for paradigm shifts. “To be successful, innovators need an environment (society, corporate culture) that values their attitude for being mavericks. As long as an audience is open to disruptive and crazy ideas, innovators will need to have the vision and the rebellion but also the persistence and communication skills to get their idea through,” he says. “All those skills together are seldom found in one individual. Only when society becomes more creative itself and becomes more open-minded will innovation and innovators blossom for then they will need to convince less and move onto create.”

Michael Shapiro, an expert in business process innovation, says that most people think innovation belongs to experts; however, innovation rests on asking the right questions, possessing vision, and articulating how to move forward. “The innovator doesn’t necessarily have to grasp all the technical details, but rather understand how they can be configured and applied, usually in very different ways from conventional wisdom. This requires remaining open to exploring new territory and evaluating new ideas. Experts often operate at a disadvantage with respect to innovation because they are so familiar with their subjects that they often dismiss the unfamiliar or miss the larger patterns and applications,” Shapiro explains.

Innovators also need to understand the market, the technology, and the technical challenges of implementation, all the while being determined to bring them all together-an intricate dance that requires attention to detail to achieve success, says Shapiro. “The very nature of innovation, usually deriving from unexpected sources, makes it exceedingly difficult to predict who the up and coming innovators are. Venture capital firms face this question all the time and typically produce a small minority. Incubators have been an attempt to institutionalize innovation posting some successes, but without a clear guaranteeing formula. Perhaps it is the intangible nature of innovation that keeps it an art rather than a science,” he says.

Barry Hemmings, an executive and business coach, says that innovators have a made a science of planning and strategy around how to be creative and different in the marketplace, which in some ways seems to be counter-intuitive. “Thinking about organization and structure relates closely to what supports those on the innovation journey,” he says. “If an organization wants to create or invent a new, amazing widget, then it is not enough to hope that the staff will have a light bulb moment after their morning coffee one Friday. Instead, organizations must make the creative and innovation processes part of the scheduled work of a team. Organizations must develop a vision for innovation; make it part of the organizational mission; develop a strategy around it; plan some measures; and support the team throughout the creativity and innovation journey.”

Marc H, a senior development scientist, thinks that an innovative person is not just one who is brilliant in a particular field or expertise, it is a combination. “Innovative people have the ability to see the potential in something. To see a need where a need doesn’t currently exist. The individual has to be his own best advocate and be successful in convincing others of his or her vision and obtaining their support, even if they fail,” he says.  “Organizations, such as Apple, or 3M, are successful by instilling in people the belief that what they do is important; they encourage networking, free-time creativity, and informal brainstorming. The best organizations are able to recognize that people have innate innovation qualities and can be future leaders.”

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