Stimulating Innovation

Innovate or die! These harsh words provide the rallying cry of today’s managers. In the dynamic world of global competition, organizations must create new products and services and adopt state of the art technology if they are to compete successfully. The standard of innovation toward which many organizations strive is that achieved by such companies as 3M, DuPont and Motorola. Their innovations have helped them become, familiar brand names and products used in nearly every household. But these companies also knew that today’s innovation is short lived. For instance, management at Black & Decker learned a valuable lesson about innovation when it brought its Snake Light to market in the mid 1990s. Projecting first year sales of 200,000 units the Snake Light sold more than 600,000 – backlogging orders for nearly 28 months. And the company’s failure to inject useful useable and desirable changes into the product led to black & Decker‘s losing its market share to a competing product.

What’s the secret to success for innovation companies? What, if anything can other managers do to make organizations more innovative? In the following pages, we will try to answer those questions as we discuss the factors behind innovation.

How are Creativity and Innovation Related?

Creativity: The ability to produce novel and useful ideas.

Innovation: The process of taking a creative idea and turning it into a useful product, service or method of operation.

In general, usage, creativity means ability to combine ideas in a unique way or to make unusual associations between ideas. For example, when Felix Hoffman discovered a pure and stable form of acetylsalicylic acid, he pioneered the invention of the pharmaceutical industry’s medicine for pain management. At Mattel, company officials introduced Project Platypus. This special division brings people from all disciplines – engineering, marketing, design, and sales to get employees to think outside the box in order to understand the sociology and psychology behind children’s patterns. To help make this kind of thinking happen, team members embark on such activities as imagination exercises, group crying and stuffed bunny throwing. The first Project Platypus product, the ello Creation system, hit the market after two years in development.

Innovation is the process of taking a creative idea and turning it into a useful product, service, or method of operation. The innovation organization is characterized by the ability to channel its creative juices into useful outcomes. When managers talk about changing organization to make it more creative, they usually means that they want to stimulate innovation. The 3M Company is aptly described as innovation because it has taken novel ideas and turned them into profitable products such as cellophane tape, Scotch protective coatings. Post it notes, and diapers with elastic waistbands. Also innovative is the highly successful microchip manufacturer Intel. It leads all chip manufacturers in miniaturization and the success of its Pentium IV chip gives the company a 75 percent share of the microprocessor market for IBM compatible PCs. With $26 billion a year in sales, Intel’s commitment to staying ahead of the competition by introducing a stream of new and more powerful products is supported by annual expenditures exceeding $7 billion for its plant and equipment and nearly $ 4 billion for research and development.

What is involved in Innovations?

Some people believe that creativity is inborn; others believe that with training anyone can be creative. The latter group creativity as a fourfold consisting of perception incubation, inspiration, and innovation

Perception involves the way you see things. Being creative means seeing things from a unique perspective. One person may see solutions to a problem that others cannot or will not see at all. The movement from perception to reality however doesn’t occur instantaneously. Instead, ideas go through a process of incubation. Sometimes employees need to sit on their ideas which do not mean sitting and doing nothing. Rather, during this incubation period, employees should collect massive amounts of data that are stored, retrieved, studied reshaped and finally molded into something new. During this period it is common for years to pass. Think for a moment about a time you struggled for an answer on a test. Although you tired hard to jog your memory, nothing worked. Then suddenly like a flash of light, the answer popped into your head. You found it! Inspiration the creative process is similar. Inspiration is the moment when all your efforts successfully come together.