Mark Miller

Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

What’s the first word that comes to your head when you think about Innovation? Ideas…creativity…insight…conceptual…strategy? What if I said that those are the wrong words? When you think innovation it has to start with…PEOPLE!

Ideas are what drives innovation, and creativity and conceptualism make ideas truly sing, but with an ever-increasing viewpoint on social thinking and more connected, engaged companies, groups and networks, the power to create ideas and make them happen are a result of true collaboration.

And collaboration itself has been innovated—companies are going beyond the traditional “creative teams” to outside vendors, partners, suppliers, customers (this according to a global survey of CEOs by IBM). This isn’t necessarily a repudiation of the creative process, where those with a particular skill in ideation and conceptualizing are lost but rather the necessity to take the input and ideas of many to come up with the greater whole.

However, keep in mind Tip #1 when looking to collaborative innovation:

  • Diverse Minds: Involving people is ideal, but be careful of the group-think mentality (see Patton, George S. – “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”). This tendency, however damaging, is incredibly common and may come with the territory of who your creative “types” are.

In Emergenetics, this could stereotypically look like a Red/Yellow divergent thinker (which is typically associated with “right brain”) or a Blue/Yellow abstract thinker. These Profiles tend to get energy from new ideas and enjoy the creative process, but what happens when the entire innovation team is made up of these types of thinkers? Even incredibly creative ideas start to look the same…and it’s tough to actually get a plan in place to make them happen. That’s why we focus on Whole Emergenetics or a WEapproach, to make sure our teams are also focusing on analysis and details in addition to the creative process.

Researchers from Stanford, Columbia, and Northwestern echoed these findings— In groups that form through natural selection, the most common basis of member attraction are similarity, proximity, and prior acquaintance. These processes, while maximizing relationship potential, often minimize the potential for learning (find the study here).

Tip #2: Think Outside the Normal Team

  • Create Freedom for Ideas: Without red tape, groups can come up with the best solutions, according to MIT Sloan Management Review. Managers used to directing the company’s innovation efforts must give their workers the freedom to come up with ideas on their own and pursue them without lots of red tape. Provide a broad vision (and perhaps some budget and timing parameters), but don’t micromanage or you’ll stifle the innovation process.
  • Innovation Involves Everyone: When you are thinking about innovation, what’s the first place you go to? Product, process? According to Forbes, product innovation alone isn’t cutting it, which makes sense. As organizations become flatter, ideas that start out with products often morph into different departments and competencies—as well they should. Once you make that leap, though, one key is ensuring that you find the experts from these varied disciplines to join the innovation. Don’t leave it to a creative team to find a way to improve manufacturing as part of a larger innovation plan to cut product costs…the manufacturing team and leaders are your innovation engines when it comes to that part of the process.

These two key tips point to a bigger business case – as organizations and their customers, clients, vendors and partners become more interconnected, so too must innovation and creativity. These elements of moving forward must keep pace with the greater focus on collaborative strength.