All innovations defy convention. Great innovations define convention.

And then, after a time even the great ones must be surpassed and superseded. The thirst for progress and novelty is only slaked for a time. Even spectacular hits must be followed by other hits or the audience will find another band. If innovation is not repeatable, it is little better than playing the lottery or throwing darts blind-folded. Innovation must not be confused with the addition of features or refinements in design. Even though innovation may be applied both to new products or services, updated designs and additional features to existing products and services, true innovation requires a conceptual shift that is characterized by a recognized flash of ingenuity or inspiration.

Long before Sergie Brin and Larry Page applied to Stanford, 3M, one of the most innovative companies ever, was encouraging innovation by allowing it's engineers to spend 15% of their time working on whatever they wanted to work on. In effect, 3M was telling the engineers it was okay to daydream. This policy has paid off enormously for 3M which now sells over 50,000 products and conducts research in just about every field imaginable. Google, the company founded by Sergie Brin and Larry Page while at Stanford is also recognized as one of the most innovative companies on the planet. Google has taken a page from the 3M book and encourages its engineers to spend 20% of their time working on whatever they choose.

The lesson for other companies from 3M and Google is two-fold. First, if innovation is encouraged, it will happen--over and over. Second, innovation happens in an environment in which ideas are allowed to flourish.

The ideas behind innovations can come from almost anywhere. But, innovation always requires both ingenuity and effort in solving the unique set of requirements dictated by the innovation. Effort is easily repeatable, but what about ingenuity? It turns out that is, too, is repeatable. Thomas Edison created over 10,000 innovations in his search for a stable lightbulb. This is an extreme case, and definitely not one that would be considered sustainable since it applies to only one product. but its extremity is proof of repeatability. Repeatability is the basis for iterative innovation.

At Preemptis we recognize seven basic types of innovation or situations in which innovation occurs.

  1. A novel, unexpected or unintended use for something already present in an environment
  2. Insights enabled by a new mindset
  3. Imitation of nature
  4. Invention
  5. Improvement that in effect creates a whole new product
  6. Abstraction
  7. Breaking stuff

At Preemptis, we've undertaken a major review of preemptive strategies, and innovation leads the way in terms of effectiveness and benefits. With very little of the downside associated with other preemptive strategies, innovation is limited only by your imagination, your ingenuity and your execution, it is your best bet for changing the game in your competitive space. Getting good at innovation is an investment that pays perpetual dividends.

There are other requirements for iterative innovation as well. For example, innovation may happen in stages. Innovation requires a leader. This leader will have had an experience that fascinates him/her and forms the basis for the the leader's vision and commitment. Fascination stimulates and engages our sense of possibilities, the imagination.

If the innovation effort is focussed on creating a soluton to an existing problem rather than creating some new that may or may not create a new need, there must be an examination of lessons learned that more closely resembles a archeological dig or a police investigation before the real creativity starts. Somewhere in this forensic discovery process the experiences that fascinates and enslaves the imagination will happen and the race is on.

If necessity is the mother of invention, fascination is the mother of innovation.

To learn more about the Preemptis Iterative Innovation Cycle and to gain insights into examples of the seven basic types of innovation that you can apply with your team, click here.

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