This week I was reading the digital version of Industry Week magazine (http://www.industryweek.com/) and I was struck by how innovation has changed. In the article ‘Innovation from the Masses’ Travis Hessman reflects on how it wasn’t that long ago that ideas were grown in closed rooms and the greatest fear was someone would steal them. Fast forward to today and while I am sure some innovators are still developing those ideas in secret or as Bob Hall puts it ‘working alone in their garage’ (see Innovators don’t Have to Be Lone Rangers!) some of the best products today are coming from open innovation around the world. The current king for this new model is none other than GE, who according to the article offered over 20 million dollars in prizes over the last two years in this open innovation frenzy. In another article in that same issue Travis Hessman discusses ‘Patent Trolls’ and the steps the American government is taking to protect inventors against them. In my mind perhaps the two are related, after all when there is just as much risk in what you use to protect your IP, approaching things from the opposite direction gains traction.
Innovation must have been the magazine theme this week as ‘Making Innovation a Capability’ by Jamie Flinchbaugh was another featured article that I thought was interesting. Jamie describes the four traits of an innovative company and while they are all necessary I think he left a couple out. Jamie suggested “Innovation ultimately requires doing things in new ways” and to me that means you must provide an environment where it is safe to fail and diversity is accepted and encouraged both in the workforce itself and in the way they accomplish things. So along with both those traits does your company have; empathy for the customer, seeing and solving problems, learning by experimenting and the ability to declare the project done and ship it? If so it probably has the ability to innovate.