David Kelley of IDEA

“Innovators aren’t exceptional as much as they are confident.” says David Kelley, founder of design firm IDEO. (WSJ) David Kelley and George Kembel founded the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stamford a nondegree d.school with $35m from SAP founder Hasso Plattner. Innovation is teachable. Their thesis covers various principles-

  1. Must solve a real life problem, by first defining the problem through research and direct observation.
  2. Second step involves “ideation” – visualalize and brainstorm potential solutions.
  3. Thirdly prototyping, build, test, iterate, rebuild and test again.
  4. Collaboration – a team with radical different views  learns the most and leads to the best results.

Hal Gregersten of INSEAD & Clayton M. Christensen of  Harvard Business School

They interviewed 100 innovative entrepreneurs for their new book The Innovator’s DNA and discovered 5 key skills:

  1. Cognitive skill – associating – the ability to make connections across unrelated fields
  2. Behavioral skill – questioning – the ability to diagnose
  3. Behavioral skill – observe – the ability to spot the signals
  4. Behavioral skill – network – the ability to collaborate
  5. Behavioral skill – experiment – the ability to try, fail, iterate, modify, try again

The authors believe a lack of courage is holding back success. The more you practice the better you get. Back to the confidence point made by David Kelley.

 My own experience

Innovation can be created across your organization by deploying versions of these principles.

  1. Create a mini University and teach your staff the essential skills they need to fulfill the requirements of their role.
    In addition teach them about other departments in your business. Bring them to a deeper appreciation of the diverse skills in your company.
  2. Teach your staff to be curious. Rarely is the software bug solved first time by the obvious answer. Rarely is the financial variance explained away by the simple version of the truth. Rarely is the explanation offered up by the salesman the real reason for a deal not closing.
  3. Teach sales professionals that they are defined by the questions they ask not by their product knowledge.
  4. Pull together multi-department teams to launch new products, execute major acquisitions, install new IT systems.
  5. Use Swot teams with diverse skills to investigate that new market, improve internal controls, look for efficiency improvements.
  6. Test early the look and feel of that new web site, or early versions of that new product to really experience the end product in the real world.
  7. Use scenario planning to visualize various versions of your business model, or various versions of your business. Be courageous. Imagine what is possible to define and dominate your unique market. Dream big.
  8. Bring innovation to all aspects of your business by defining the problem:
    eg – regular meetings – ask – what question is this meeting answering
    eg – sales – what business result can I deliver for this prospect
    eg – new products – what is the size of the potential market I’m attacking and what itch am I really scratching

When you start to follow these principles and align your resources you will create a buzz, a curiosity, a sense of purpose in your organization, and you will create an innovative culture.

I’ve devoted 4 chapters of my new book to Innovation. First 5 readers to email me will receive a signed copy with bookmarks to pass on.