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Catalyzing Innovation - Post 4 in a Series

Catalyzing Innovation - Post 4 in a Series

Matt Saiia's picture
Matt Saiia
August 4th, 2011

This is the third post in our series on Catalyzing Innovation. I’ll be exploring the final three contributing factors here. Keep an eye out for my follow-up post on how Collective Next uses Applied Collaboration to bring these factors to life.

Space to Fail

By definition, innovation means peering beyond what is known and understood, and exploration into this space is inherently risky. An organization that demands success from every innovative initiative will quickly find itself short on new ideas. Failure must be not only accepted, but embraced as a core driver of creative insights crucial to successful innovation. Framed this way, failure enhances the persistence required of an individual or group engaged in innovation, where it might otherwise have a dampening effect.

If failure is not an option, innovation is not an option either. Organizations must create a blame-free environment in which to play, take risks, fall down, discover what is possible, and emerge stronger for the experience. This allows innovators to experience and learn from failure, “failing forward” and turning each challenge into a stepping stone toward success.

Creative Tension

When people with different perspectives on a problem collaborate to develop solutions, a natural tension occurs. That creative tension is heightened in the context of innovation, as new ideas frequently conflict with the prevailing ways of seeing and doing. By necessity, innovation challenges the status quo and thus faces the ultimate challenge: inertia.

Organizations must foster and protect dissent in order to maintain the tension required for true creation. If there is no room for debate, no room to question mental models, and no room to challenge “the way it’s always been done”, there is no room for innovation.  

Unlikely Talent

Homogeneous groups, assembled from similar schools of thought and pools of experience, fall prey to reinforcing behaviors and repetitive discourse that prevent the discovery of creative insights and the integration of divergent perspectives.

Organizations that wish to be innovative must seek talent that is diverse in its expertise, experience, and comfort with the status quo. Individuals should be encouraged to learn and apply concepts from outside their areas of expertise, and organizations must create intentional interaction and unlikely partnerships among its diverse talent.

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The 9 contributing factors I’ve discussed in this series are not meant to be an exhaustive list–but they are all crucial to successful and sustainable innovation. In your experience, what other factors enable and accelerate innovation?

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