As someone who has worked in Silicon Valley for over 20 years, you can expect me to tout the computer as the greatest engineering innovation of all time. But even after decades of working in the cradle of one of the most significant inventions in history, it often happens to me to go back several centuries to the question of knowing what I consider to be the greatest innovation of all time: the printing press .
The printing press has contributed to the democratization and dispersion of literacy and knowledge throughout Europe and the world. The Gutenberg Bible, created using some of the first printing presses, changed the structure of politics and religion in Europe. It was revolutionary. It changed the world. It's the power of innovation – or, at least, the opportunity.
What is innovation?
As an innovation strategist, I spent years researching the innovation process, particularly through the development of the Autodesk Genome Innovation. What makes a good idea? And what makes a big idea change the world?
First of all, you have to understand what innovation is, what it is not, and why so many companies are relentlessly looking for it. but find it so rarely. When I started studying innovation, most of the definitions I found were wrong, wrong, or just blurry and amorphous. The innovation was, and is, a bit like Bigfoot and Elvis – it's supposed to be everywhere, but it's incredibly hard to find.
Here is a definition that can really help companies innovate: Innovation is the art of establishing in the real world something new or different that has a significant impact. If you focus on the "real-world" part of this definition, it is much more likely that you will make a real innovation.
CEOs always read innovation at the highest level of importance; After all, if a company is not constantly trying to create and reinvent, what is its purpose and what will be its success? But despite this interest in innovation from the top up, companies that do not innovate are often afraid to be wrong or fail, and these fears ultimately inhibit success.
Making way for innovation
When you think of the reasons why organizations can not innovate, think about the time that has elapsed between the invention of the spear and the bow and arrow: 391,000 years ago. Why did it take so long for human technology to go from a war mode to a much better one? If I'm good with a spear (the current way) and you introduce a bow and arrow (a "better way"), I could react negatively because your idea seems dangerous and threatening to my basic understanding of the world.
The business climate of today is not so far from these fears of the bow and arrow. As a CEO, if an employee comes to you with a very new and different idea, that person may appear as a threat. But you do not need to see it this way: you can embrace evolution, be part of it, and perhaps even lead it. You are there to impress the customer and beat the competition – but to do that, you have to innovate and open up to yourself and the business to change. It is there that a proven innovation methodology can help.
During my research on innovation, my team and I undertook to study the thousand greatest innovations in history. We have studied each element of the list, some more closely than others, in order to systematically define and refine the common ways that have led to some of the most revolutionary creations in the world. In the end, this exploration – through the Autodesk Innovation Genome – resulted in a methodology of five techniques.
The 5 techniques of innovation and the 7 questions of innovation
The process begins with an aerial overview of your business and what surrounds it in terms of innovation opportunities. By the time real projects are created in the last stage, you have broken down all obstacles, set realistic expectations (but also considered wild opportunities), and embarked on your journey to make your revolutionary innovation happen in the world. real. Here is an overview of this five-part technique:
- Create an environment of innovation. Think of it as a 30,000-foot map of your business, your customer base, your competition and your context, all from the perspective of innovation.
- Identify the targets for innovation. Welcome to specific areas where innovation can be usefully applied in your business.
- Developing ideas for innovation. Apply the seven questions of innovation (see below) to your targets to start producing a wide range of ideas.
- Prioritize ideas for innovation. Determine which ideas are wild enough to be really new and practical.
- Turn your ideas into projects. Often the most difficult step for organizations, is to formalize the idea, to obtain the adhesion of the stakeholders and to concretize it.
To fully develop the ideas of innovation (Technique # 3), take the target of innovation and generate ideas around it by asking the following seven questions:
- Look: What could you look at in a new way or from a new perspective?
- Usage: What could you use in a new way or for the first time?
- Move: What could you move, by changing its position in time or in space?
- Interconnect: What could you interconnect differently or for the first time?
- Alter: What could you change in terms of design and performance?
- Do: What could you do that is really new?
- Imagine: What could you imagine to create a great experience for someone?
For each innovation over time, what was the jump from A to B? In studying history, it became clear that brilliant innovators were implicitly or explicitly asking a series of questions about the status quo (the current thing) to access the novo status (the new thing). I'm not saying that Steve Jobs or Benjamin Franklin or Grog the Caveman wrote these five steps, but they all made different versions.
"Think of progressive innovation as your daily job." – Bill O. Connor
The future is a revolutionary innovation
Think of progressive innovation as your day job. Whatever you do – making an engine, making a restaurant, doing a government – it's a little better every day. But beyond that, you should spend part of your day trying to figure out the next big thing, whether it's a new way of doing something or a new product.
That brings me back to this great innovation, the printing press. Consider the written language before the print shop: monks and scribes who have copied pages by hand for centuries and who are probably waiting for centuries more of the same method. But the punch had been around since the Roman era, and the press was not far behind. Gutenberg just had the crazy idea to connect the two.
An invention, a moment aha, led to one of the most revolutionary revolutionary innovations in human history. It's the power of innovation. Remember, innovation requires something to establish in the real world. The invention gives birth to an idea for the first time, but the innovation makes it appear in the world and modifies it.