Monthly Archives: March 2014

Innovation Process

Without an Innovation Process you are Searching for Gold without a Map or Compass!

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Every opportunity I have, I ask business leaders if they have an official and documented process for innovation. The typical response I get leads me to a clear understanding that most people don’t!

What’s even more troublesome is that over half of them say they don’t really need an Innovation process…that they just “do it” when they need it and that’s perfectly fine. What these business leaders are really describing is probably just problem solving, not true innovation. Both are required in your organization but they are two entirely different mindsets requiring different thinking.

The difference is subtle and can make the difference between moving forward in a positive direction…or remaining mediocre and stagnate. Some background into the difference between problem solving and innovation is required to illustrate the point, so I will provide a quick comparison for you.



Problem Solving                             True Innovation
Reactive                                                              Proactive
Defensive approach                        Offensive approach
Based on Stability                               Based on Change
Risk reductions                                 New Opportunities
Operational Efficiency                    Leadership Strategy


adapted from figures in “The Innovation Formula” by M. Robert, & A. Weiss

The list and figures above show clear distinctions between the two processes. The biggest difference is the change in performance level. So you can see that Innovation requires a different, and unique process, which may also include interconnected process elements or components.

Innovation is a repeatable business practice containing specific skills and thinking mindsets. It is not a homemade soup where you add a pinch of this and a pinch of that.  Innovation requires a structured and disciplined sequence of steps that contains tools that can be used in each step.

Divergence ——–> Transformation ——-> Convergence

The above steps are interconnected and flow forward from a starting point using divergent thinking to a finish point using convergent thinking.  Inside the flow between these two thinking elements, you must have a creativity step allowing a series of new ideas to evolve providing a transformation. Any Innovation process requires as a minimum these three steps.

Many Innovation processes contain 4 to 8 steps depending on their design thinking logic. The NOVATE process contains 6 steps with an interconnected flow that allows you to think forward, think backward and then continue to think forward again.


NOVATE Innovation Process

  • Recognize – Identify a deficiency or problem.
  • Discover – Explore previous design ideas or solutions to your problem.
  • Pattern – Recognize and match similarities, commonalities or dis-similarities.
  • Novate – Replace something with positive deconstruction and reconstruction.
  • Evaluate – Combine idea solutions to create integrated design solutions.
  • Implement – Create the proposed system containing all of the functionality.
  • Linked Connections – Interconnected flow paths that illustrate a topographical view diagramming the flexibility of an innovation thinking network.

Too often business leaders use the term innovation as a path to the future for their companies. These same leaders don’t provide the tools, training and resources required to create a culture of innovation thinking. The people in these companies can only use the tools they have available.

The statement that opportunity only knocks once is wrong.  Opportunity is always knocking, but you must understand what it looks like…feels like, sounds like, smells like and tastes like! So if you think you need to be in the right place at the right time, you are in trouble. You need to be in the right place all the time.

Innovation requires all of your senses and takes time for valuable ideas. Instant ideas take no practice, strategy or purpose. Innovation is occurring all around you on a daily basis, because change is happening around you constantly. True Innovation requires original thinking followed by measurement of the opportunities by pragmatic evaluation. This type of innovation process must have a filtering process to make intelligent choices about which opportunities to pursue. True Innovation processes check for strategic fits and are many times hard to implement. It requires both qualitative and quantitative evaluations blending subjective and objective thinking styles.

Leaders who embrace a True Innovation process are creating a roadmap to success one idea at a time. They have created a repeatable trail that leads from business survival to organizational preparedness for accelerating change. These Leaders recognize the role of true innovation, they have their people learn the process and skills of innovating, and apply innovative abilities on a regular, disciplined basis.

The next question is always so where do I start and HOW?  The answer is a tough one because “It Depends” on where your organization and leadership team is starting at. As a minimum you must:

  • Start the “Journey” – Get the word out that you are starting to identify an Innovation Process that will be used to create new business opportunities. Tell everyone!
  • Obtain Executive sponsorship
  • Establish and provide a dedicated budget for “Innovation”
  • Identify an “Innovation Process” that fits
  • Establish a Quantitative and Qualitative Measurement of ideas
  • Create an Innovation Business Scorecard with “KPI’s”
  • Identify and embrace a set of creativity and new thinking tools
  • Train your employees on the use of these tools
  • Measure the “ROI’s” for Innovation
  • Share & Recognize the Successes and Failures
  • Verify & Validate Stakeholder Innovation Expectations
  • Continue Innovation Process Improvements

For many organizations to start the Process of Innovation, it will require them to create an ‘Enterprise” wide Innovation initiative that establishes an Idea Management System. In this system, you will need to break your organization apart into multiple systems and create multiple Innovation Process efforts for different areas.  The advantage of a “Process” is that it can be mapped, measured, optimized and continuously improved.

It’s hard to do this right, but if you really believe that Innovation is your path to the future, you need an Innovation Process to get there.


  1. TOP 10 Reasons Why We Need INNOVATION by Lorraine Yapps Cohen
  2. NOVATE –
  3. The Innovation Formula –


“Structured Brainstorming” through the use of Idea Provocations

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Realize it or not, Brilliant Ideas require a Provocation to start the idea generation process. Everyone has their own opinion about brainstorming. Some think it’s a powerful creativity tool. Others think it’s simply our brains playing around. It’s based on the concept that “two heads are better than one” to come up with new ideas that are Brilliant.

The current term “Brainstorming” has become easily confused with any creativity or innovation method. Many people use it as a way to describe the activity of coming up with any new idea, and very few understand the history of the term or its true intent.

Alex F. Osborn authored the original term “Brainstorming” in the 1953 book Applied Imagination. He used it to describe his early 1939 group-thinking efforts using the “brain to storm” a creative problem, and to do so in commando fashion, with each stormer attacking the same objective. Osborn additionally identified nine principles to manipulate a subject. The first two principles contribute to “ideative efficacy,” these being:

  1. Defer judgment
  2. Reach for quantity
  3. Reduce social inhibitions among the group members
  4. Stimulate idea generation
  5. Increase the overall creativity of the group
  6. Focus on quantity
  7. Withhold criticism
  8. Welcome unusual ideas
  9. Combine and improve ideas

Almost all current innovation and creativity processes use these same principles and goals as the objectives to create new ideas. One new area of idea exploration is the development of a “Provocation” challenge or statement which can take you into a non-traditional thinking direction. Bob Eberle developed the mnemonic. SCAMPER from Osborn’s original work and it was popularized in the “Thinker Toys” book by Michael Michalko.

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Modify/Magnify
  • Put to another use
  • Eliminate
  • Reverse/Rearrange

“It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.”- Alex Osborn

The solution, as suggested by the above quote, is to think up as many ideas as possible regardless of how ridiculous they may seem at first. Since it is very unlikely to think up the best solution immediately, we recommend getting every idea out of your head and then going back to examine them afterwards. An idea that may have initially sounded off-the-wall may actually turn out to be a potentially possible idea with some fine tuning or modification. Osborn’s technique of deferred judgment increases the individual’s synthesis capabilities by releasing the human mind from the analysis mode of thinking.

The most important step in brainstorming is formulating or creating the problem or challenge statement. This initial step leads idea creating participants into areas they may not traditionally go to.  An “Idea Provocation” is a statement which challenges participants to immediately think differently. It can allow you to challenge or eliminate your assumptions. There are 4 categories of Provocations that can revolutionize your thinking which are based on:

  • Timing – Time domains that can be challenged are to think into the future or the past for ways to stimulate new ideas or solve problems. You can slow down, stop, speed up or start over creating new situations, or logical mindsets. Time travel can exist and you can let it lead your thinking forward and into an outrageous direction.
  • Arrangement – The logical flow for how things are joined together, connected, interconnected or placed is challenged. You can eliminate, rearrange, substitute or add something extra to stimulate new ideas or solve problems. The addition of splitting or fracturing the sequencing of your new thinking can lead to different, amazing new discoveries that naturally unveil themselves.
  • Positional – Space domains are based on a logical position which can be challenged by working from the back to the front, turning things inside out and changing the direction to stimulate new ideas or solve problems. The starting point and ending points can be changed in the design or idea creation. When you think backward moving towards the initial starting point you can optimize your efficiency and maximize your effectiveness.
  • Exploration – Breaking apart the basic assumptions, mental models and paradigms that structure the problem to your solutions is key to creating new idea mindsets. You can add abstract statements or elements together to create new thinking. Additionally, you can continue to question the thinking logic by repeatedly asking “Why” or “What’s stopping you.” Wicked problems are based on contradictions where two opposing elements are needed at the same time. True exploration looks to all areas that may contain new ideas or solve problems.   

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Brainstorming tools that can help you create these logical provocations are available from Edward de Bono in his lateral thinking tool PO (provocation operation) which can allow a fantasy idea by stating “wouldn’t it be nice if”. Roger Von Oech has developed a set of 64 cards called the Creative Whack Pack which can stimulate new creative strategies. Finally, Michael Michalko has designed a brainstorming card deck called THINKPAK which can lead to new insights using scamper questions and idea stimulators.

Using Idea Provocations allows a new creative balancing of a problem. The outrageous bold statements allow you to invert your thinking. The process of diverting your patterns of thinking with new problem or challenge statements can change the relationship of elements and flows. Ultimately this can allow you to create new and creative ideas for your business and enterprise challenges in 2014. 


  2. Creative Whack Pack –
  3. PO –