Innovation - anticipating the forces of change

In a previous blog - the Gentle Art of Innovation - we implied that innovation was a process - more science than art. But we carefully left out the tough bit, coming up with the idea itself. For many of us, this is the biggest challenge so a framework may help.

Innovation is about making life, easier, richer, cooler, better in some way that is unique.

It does this by anticipating or easing the forces that shape our lives.

Technology compresses time and space. Think social networking and system-on-a-chip. In a social sense the world is getting smaller, but each year we can achieve more with less and in that sense the world is getting bigger.

As our power grows so does our accountability. To restrict the power of kings we had Magna Carta. To restrict the power of banks we have Dodd-Frank. To restrict the power of individuals we have a legal system.

Technology accelerates change and the need for new skills. As a result our lives feel more complex.

Innovation is our unique response to these forces - compression, accountability and complexity. We could add others, but let's keep things simple.

The innovation response to complexity is simplicity.

Kinect makes it easier to interact with technology; it's cool, has great graphics and moves us closer to Mark Weiser's famous vision of ubiquitous computing. No more keyboards - just movements.

How about accountability? We respond to regulation by becoming more transparent. We increase public confidence and reduce the need for regulation. An example would be Goldman's new transparent business practices. Goldman prizes innovation.

How should we respond to compression?  Compression disrupts business models. To avoid disruption we must constantly disrupt. An example would be PayPal's alternative payment models now moving to embrace the TV, redefining our concept of mobility.

Why do innovations fail?

Take securitization.  We took a simple product - a mortgage - and made it infinitely more complex and less transparent. There was leadership, but in the wrong direction.

Why are innovations like starbursts?  Because we fail to continuously enhance them in innovative ways.

The Gentle Art of Innovation can be found at: