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Ten Innovation Myths

November 1, 2011

9:42 AM Friday October 28, 2011

Over the past year I’ve shifted my presentation materials so they include mostly pictures and 96 point font. That’s good for audiences (at least, I think it is), but bad when I get the kind of request that landed in my in-box last week.

“I’m doing an innovation update at one of our meetings and I’m hoping you can assist me with some conversation starters,” a senior leader said to one of our clients. “The main point of the presentation is to get the audience thinking proactively and positively about how they can contribute to innovation.”

I had presented a slideshow on this exact topic in April. Unfortunately, my slides consisted of a big picture of a black box, a photo of Steve Jobs, headshots of eight academics, a screenshot of an Old Spice advertising campaign, and a picture of my favorite haircut place in Singapore. The slides are pretty, but they won’t help a thirdparty who lacks the context.

So, my colleague Josh Suskewicz and I put our heads together and came up with the 10 innovation myths that we encounter most often in the field.

Myth
Reality
Innovation is random Innovation is a discipline — it can be measured and managed. Consider how Procter & Gamble’s structured approach to innovation allowed it to triple its innovation success rate and double the size of a typical initiative.
Only creative geniuses can innovate Innovation is distinct from creativity. While creativity can help, people who aren’t intrinsically creative can create high-impact innovation if they follow the right process.
You’re either an innovator or you’re not Research recounted in The Innovator’s DNA described how innovation is about 30 percent nature and 70 percent nurture.
Innovation happens in the R&D lab Innovation — something different that has impact — can happen anywhere in an organization. Everyone should be looking for new ways to solve old problems.
We will win with superior technology Most market disruptions rest on innovative business models — new ways to create, capture, or deliver value
Innovation is all about improved performance Sometimes innovation is about improving performance along traditional dimensions, but some of the most powerful disruptive innovations sacrifice raw performance in the name of accessibility or affordability.*
Our customers will be a critical source of innovation insight Your customers might tell you how to make your current offering better, but they won’t point the way to disruptive growth; you have to explore new markets in new ways to identify new growth businesses.
Game changing innovation is done only by entrepreneurs Many of the most exciting disruptions in recent years — such as GE’s low cost imaging solution and Cisco’s TelePresence solution — have come from big companies
We will win by targeting the biggest markets Markets that don’t exist are difficult to precisely measure or analyze; the most powerful innovations create new markets.
Innovation requires big bets As our friend Peter Sims writes in Little Bets, if you want to win big, you should start small.

There’s no doubt we missed something important in our list. What other innovation myths have you encountered?
* This is where the slide showing the barber shop example appears. Curious? It’s detailed in The Little Black Book of Innovation, coming out about two months from now!

Scott Anthony

Scott leads Innosight’s Asian operations. His fourth book on innovation, The Little Black Book of Innovation, will be released in early 2012. Follow him on Twitter at @ScottDAnthony.

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