Innovation is More than Creative

As the Head of Design at Delvinia I’m always challenged by my clients, my team and my personal desire to push the boundaries for whatever we’re assigned to create. Fortunately we can produce great projects here. However, to earn the distinction between creating something great from something truly innovative takes a great deal more effort than coming up with the idea. The irony is that what’s innovative could be so simple on the surface but requires significant commitment of resources by the client team to be successful.

Bright IdeaInnovation Has Little to Do With Creative

In today’s global marketplace, companies are constantly under pressure to improve their existing products and develop new products to meet new or underserved consumer needs. For that reason innovation has become not only widely talked about but priority one on their agendas. We are seeing more and more of our clients creating internal hubs for innovation. However, many companies still find it difficult to incorporate innovative thinking into their culture or operations.

Now I’ll make a distinction here. Companies are great idea generators. Successful organizations may have many creative leaders within their team. They also leverage a variety of consultants to create even more ideas. But creativity alone does not make something innovative. Here’s a quote I’ve found rather telling:

“We like to think of an organization’s capacity for innovation as creativity multiplied by execution. We use “multiplication” rather than “sum” because, if either creativity or execution has a score of zero, then the capacity for innovation is zero.” –  by Vijay Govindarajan HBR

The essence of this is that innovation doesn’t lie in the creative idea. Developing the creative idea is the easy and glamorous part. The client team is often highly engaged generating ideas with the external design team. How often have I heard a client say, “Great idea but how do we support this long-term?” Many great ideas get diminished in execution when reality sets in.

It’s In the Follow Through

We see innovation as a way to disrupt the marketplace. It creates new opportunities, new customers and customers. However, innovation also demands some level of internal disruption. What do I mean by this? Companies can boast they can deliver existing products and services effectively. Putting your hat on this can significantly hinder great ideas from becoming true innovations. For innovation to prosper it requires a commitment to new resources and business processes to succeed. Unfortunately this area is the least desirable and the expensive part of innovation. And it’s here many companies tread very cautiously.

What’s a post on innovation without a final thought on Steve Jobs? It can be argued was he a true innovator, or not. But if you look at what he accomplished in his career through the lens of execution it’s not much of an argument. Looking at products like the iPhone or iTunes, these were marketplace game changers. But what made big innovations was in the way he transformed Apple and his business partners in media, software and manufacturing to ensure his success.

[Photo credit: mentorworks]