Innovate Your Way to Future Success

The need for transforming workplaces into innovation centers is well-documented, yet not yet widely adopted.
To wit…

“The success of corporate R&D is on every C-suite agenda.  Yet wide disparities persist in how well innovation investments actually pay off. As a consequence, R&D is often seen as a black box, where large sums of money go in and innovative products and services only sometimes come out.”

– The Global Innovation 1000

According to Marshall McLuhen, innovation can be applied to achieve advances in any of the following four (4) ways:


  • Enhance Something: A prime example was how Google was a late entrant into search, but lapped the field with its simple approach.
  • Eliminate Something: Charles Schwab eliminated the need for stock brokers entirely, by connecting the back office of the trading house directly to the customer.
  • Return Us to Something in Our Past: Think about how the desire to have home cooked family meals has led to the proliferation of underground dining and slow food restaurants.
  • Over Time, Reverse into Its Opposite: Think about how e-mail was going to set us all free but instead enslaved us with its ubiquitous and overwhelming demands.

Well then, if that’s INNOVATION, what does “Creativity” entail?

Creativity means looking at the same information as everyone else, and seeing something different.
Why is INNOVATION so critical to your organization’s success and future viability?  Innovation is the one essential business survival skill that has no limits and your organization can leverage to overcome challenges everywhere, from global competition, rapid change in pace of technology, changing demographics/population composition, an aging population, etc.
Following is a list of the challenges that can be overcome by applying an innovative workforce:

  • The PERVASIVENESS of software, mobile apps, and cloud computing.
  • A Dun & Bradstreet study revealed that for each successful new product introduced, a company needs 50-60 other new product ideas in the pipeline.
  • The rise of China as an innovation powerhouse.
  • Too big to fail is no longer a valid protection.
  • In 1958, the average life span of an S&P 500 company was 58 years. Today, it is less than 18 years.

How to create a culture of Innovation in your organization.
Following are actionable strategies that you can begin implementing immediately to build a innovation-driven firm by applying creativity at all levels, from front-line staff to management.

  • Have a MISSION that truly matters, inspires others by making emotional connections with them.


  • You need to plan…and PLAN TO FAIL.


  • See innovation as an ongoing pursuit.


  • Get symbolic!  Symbols represent the underlying values of the organization, and they come in many forms: value statements, awards, success stories, posters in hallways, catch phrases, etc.


  • Use symbols as effective cues to represent what your organization stands for and build a story that resonates with the world.


  • Colgate Palmolive’s Global R&D Group initiated a “recognition economy” by giving out symbolic wooden nickels to colleagues that made noteworthy contributions to their projects. Symbols also depicted as organizational stories and folklore that live on.


  • Create an IDEAS program for your organization and include everyone.


  • You MUST have passion!


Follow the lead of today’s most innovative firms.
Fortunately, many organizations have built stellar cultures driven by innovation that you can learn from.  Some of the best examples include:

–Embrace BLUE SKY thinking. Provide opportunities for your people to think freely without constraints of having to “produce” outcomes.
–Employees dedicate 20% of their time to innovation.  Give your people the the INNOVATION TIME OFF they need, in order to cultivate an innovation ‘mindset.’

  • Adobe KICKBOX campaign: Gives its employees a box filled with creativity tools including $1000 prepaid credit card to spend on new innovative pursuits.


  • Amazon key principle is “Invent and simplify.”


  • Intuit: Gives out a Leadership award to its executives that help to create start-ups inside the company.  Affords its best innovators three months of “unstructured” time that they can use in one big chunk or spread out over six months for part-time exploration of new opportunities.


  • Samsung Open Innovation Center:

Samsung Accelerator
Samsung Strategy & Innovation Center
So, how can you begin implementing a world-class innovative culture in your organization?  Here’s how:

  • Know that there truly are no silver bullets/magic lists.  Only environments where innovation is MORE likely to occur.
  • Always talk to and observe your customers, focusing on solving their problems.  (Ex. Dan Buchner, P&G product development had his team spend time in customer’s homes watching them. Led to the launch of theSwiffer product line.)
  • Record all of your ideas and thoughts about problems.
  • Don’t think REPRODUCTIVELY: Most people settle on the most promising approach based on our past experiences.
  • We tend to exclude other options as we work within a clearly defined direction towards the solution.  BREAK THIS PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR!
  • Cultivate your creativity by implementing the following 2 approaches:

– Constantly try to improve your idea, product, service: Early ideas are usually not your best ideas, as they are only partially formed; and
– Challenge your assumptions: To test an assumption, reverse it and try to make the reverse work.

The test of an invention is the power of [the] inventor to push it through in the face of staunch – not opposition, but indifference – in society”.


Edwin Land, Polaroid co-founder

  • Sketch your ideas.
  • Use “lateral thinking skills” (Paul Sloane) entails looking at things in an entirely NEW way.
  • Employ “wrong thinking”:

– Great inventors engage in divergent (“wrong”) thinking, which allows them to explore a full realm of possibilities for a solution – no matter how silly or far-fetched.
– They’re not necessarily concerned with the most logical solution, and certainly not with one that draws on “conventional wisdom.”

We’re taught to do things the right wayBut if you want to discover something that other people haven’t, you need to do things the wrong way…  When I was doing my vacuum cleaner, I started out trying a conventionally shaped cyclone, the kind you see in textbooks.  But we couldn’t separate the carpet fluff and dog hairs and strands of cotton in those cyclones. It formed a ball inside the cleaner or shot out the exit and got into the motorI tried all sorts of shapes. Nothing worked. So then I thought I’d try the wrong shape, the opposite of conical.  Andit worked.”

Sir James Dyson

This is just a starting point.  There are many more strategies that you can employ, once you have begun to build a foundation driven by innovation and creativity. Good luck!
Here’s to your continued success in 2016.
– Ethan