Innovation as a Process

I read an interesting paper today “The Social Life of Innovation” by Peter Denning.    A summary of key elements of innovation covered off in the paper:

Elements of the process of innovation:

  • Searching for opportunity:  Noticing an opportunity in one of the  eight innovation sources (see below).
  • Analysis: Going out into the community, listening for concerns, finding what they are receptive to, adapting the proposal to match.
  • Focus: Developing a simple articulation of the central idea and sticking to it despite temptations to embellish or extend prematurely.
  • Leadership: Positioning the technology to be the best of breed, mobilizing people and market for it.

Opportunities for innovation:

  • Unexpected events: Unexpected successes or failures, outside events.
  • Incongruities: A gap between reality and common belief, aspects that do not fit together.
  • Process Need: A bottleneck in a critical process.
  • Change of industry structure:  New business models, distribution channels, modes of business.
  • Demographics: Changes in groups by age, politics, religion, income, etc
  • Change of mood or perception: Application of new knowledge, often involving scientific advances and convergence of different areas.
  • Marginal practices: Fringe practices that may resolve persistent breakdowns in current central practices.

Personal practices of innovation:

  • Awareness: Ability to perceive opportunities and concerns, distinguishing them from your own agenda and concerns, ability to overcome cognitive blindness.
  • Focus and persistence: Ability to maintain attention on the mission and avoid distractions, holding to the mission amidst chaos, challenge or opposition, refusal to give up in the face of obstacles and challenges to the mission.
  • Listening and Blending: Listening for deeply held concerns and interests and adapting actions to fit (finding the win-win)
  • Declarations:  Ability to make simple, powerful, moving and eloquent declarations that create possibilities and open attractive new worlds for others.
  • Destiny:  Operating from a sense of a larger purpose than yourself, the purpose drives you.
  • Offers:  Making and fulfilling offers that bring services, practices or artifacts of value to your customers; organizing groups and managing their commitments toward delivery of the results; maintaining a deep commitment to doing whatever is needed to obtain the results.
  • Networks and institutions: Gathering allies, defending against objectors, and creating institutions to further the innovation, develop common standards, and widen its acceptance.
  • Learning: Making time to learn new skills, acquire new knowledge, making well-grounded assessments in preparation for new learning and action.
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