Innovation process?

Earlier this week I had lunch with @Cjack_HC, @ElliotLeson, @Westdene64, and a few others. I joined the lunch late as the group was in the middle of a brainstorming session on creating names for business card designs.  Sounds easy, but I found the task pretty challenging.  It made me think of the age old question “Is creative accidental or thoughtful?

Innovation Process

I'll be happy to give you innovative thinking. What are the guidelines?

Today, during drive time commute with the carpool gang, a similar question was asked. “Can you have a process around innovation?” At first thought the two words seem to contradict each other.

Merriam-Webster defines process as ” a series of actions or operations conducing to an end; especially : a continuous operation” while innovation is defined as “the introduction of something new.”

So an innovation process would be a series a actions conducing to an end that introduces something new.  The rub is that process implies a repeatable action. Process provides for a constraining framework that limits non-standard results. Yet innovation is the ability to create something new and implies a change in thought. Innovation isn’t constrained by boundaries. Innovation encourages failure so that future ideas are stronger, while process requires following a series of pre-defined actions and penalizes failure to do so.

After thinking on this a bit more, I believe an innovation process is more of a system that combines a structured framework to help achieve ideas conceived in an unconstrained environment. But there’s a catch.  The innovation in the system applies not only to the ability to think of new ideas in an unconstrained manner, but the ability to implement those ideas through incremental improvements or adjustments to existing processes. By definition, an innovative idea is something new. So it’s possible that implementing the new idea won’t fit in the boundaries of an existing process. That said, process has a definite place in business and adds value because of its repeatability. The process provides for a system of performance excellence. A company will need to use elements of its predefined processes for optimal achievement of innovative ideas.

I believe an innovation process is something that can be used as a value proposition for client relationships. A company can prove it has an innovation process in place by showing a regular pipeline of  both ideas and implemented ideas. This is valuable to clients and prospects because it shows a well rounded company that contains a base of stability with an edge of creativity. It’s the sign of a company that keeps a fresh set of products and services entering the product life-cycle.

So back to those business cards. What do you think? Is creative accidental or thoughtful?

Photo Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0