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Can innovation processes actually inhibit innovation?

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Do you ever feel like “innovation” is the perpetual buzzword of the week? For many, innovation has become synonymous with progress, and in all job roles employees are increasingly focused on the next big thing. Because of the growing importance of “new and improved,” many leaders are going to great lengths to develop processes intended to ensure organizational innovation. Although this tactic is well-intentioned, some innovation experts think it will backfire.

Creating an environment that fosters innovation is important, but is it really possible to increase innovation by defining a process? Ryan Jacoby, who leads IDEO’s New York practice, doesn’t seem to think so. Jacoby recently gave a talk at NYU/Poly called Leading Innovation: Process Is No Substitute that warns would-be-innovators not to stifle progress by creating overly defined processes for it.

In his speech, Jacoby outlined Seven Deadly Sins to Avoid – what not to do. Here is a summary of the resulting tips – what you should be doing. Notice these tips aren’t part of a prescribed process, but are simply guidelines for leaders who’d like to increase creativity and development within their organizations.

  1. Pay attention to your surroundings — sometimes it’s easier to find innovative answers outside the office.

  2. Encourage employees to find problem-solving methods that work for them. Just because something is impractical doesn’t mean it won’t eventually lead to a practical solution.

  3. Allow enough time for exploration before moving to execution.

  4. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, and don’t shy away from the unconventional.

  5. Be upfront about the impact that you expect from your teams — if you want a big impact, make sure you allow enough time to perform.

  6. Encourage diverse viewpoints.

  7. Remember there is no “one way” to innovate.

Having an innovation process is fine, but it’s important to remember that processes alone are not enough. According to Jacoby, you must “learn the process, execute the process and then lead within it” to successfully become an innovative organization.

To see a full discussion on Jacoby’s speech and read “Seven Deadly Sins that Choke Out Innovation,” visit Fast Company‘s Co.Design blog.

About the Author

Alex Gammelgard

Alex managed social media marketing and communications at Arena from 2011 to 2012. Although coming in fresh to the manufacturing industry, Alex is married to an engineer and is well ...

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