Game-changing innovation remains so difficult despite organizational and societal pressure for transformative results.
The digital advances of the past two decades have enabled a much broader population than ever before to express creative intelligence.
Unconventional thinkers the world over have unprecedented access to the distributed knowledge, talents, capital, and consumers they need to create a start-up or a movement around a great idea. Innovation has been thoroughly democratized.
And yet breakthrough offerings remain hard to come by. Apart from the transformation of services powered by mobile apps and the internet, we have not seen spectacular surges of innovation across sectors. The economists Tyler Cowen and Robert Gordon have spoken of innovation stagnation. The business thinker Gary Hamel notes that corporations are awash in ideas that fall into one of two buckets: incremental no-brainer or flaky no-hoper. And in our consulting work with innovation teams we see many promising ideas become superficial, narrow, or skewed—or perish altogether.
The lack of progress is surprising given that companies have an improved understanding of the innovation process, driven in large part by design thinking and lean start-up methodologies. Terms such as “user centered,” “ideation,” and “pivot” have become commonplace and have changed the way business leaders think about creating new offerings. Yet for all this guidance, only 43% of corporations have what experts consider a well-defined process for innovation, according to the research firm CB Insights.
There are two potential routes to any solution: conformity (in this case, trying to use established channels to affect policy) and originality.
The first is adequate for many everyday challenges. But for thornier problems, more-divergent thinking may be required.
Here's an HBR based test to assess and measure your Creative and Innovation process.