Linear vs. Messy Innovation

Innovation experts and consultants come in two flavors: linear and messy. The two approaches yield vastly different results.

Innovation experts and consultants come in two flavors: linear and messy. The linear, analytical ones tell us that innovation happens in a step-wise, predictable way e.g., the seven stages of innovation.

The seven stages that IdeaScale identified were:

1. Ideation: The gathering of promising ideas at various stages of readiness.

2. Build Team: Assembling members who will help research and build the idea and potentially implement it, as well.

3. Refine: Additional investigation and information is conducted to augment the idea into a more finished proposal.

4. Estimate: Potential costs and values of the proposal are assigned.

5. Review: The idea is rated across pre-defined criteria against business objectives and prioritized against other ideas.

6. Fund: The most valuable ideas seek a budget for implementation.

7. Deliver: The leading ideas are launched and the results are tracked.

The other camp—the messy camp—sees the creative process and moving ideas forward as more organized chaos or managed serendipity.

Maybe some of you recognize these things at your place:

1. Those who are part of the myth of meritocracy get to call the shots.

2. Six months are spent talking about how great your ideas are and then you are told there is no money and there never was.

3. The organization uses a thumbs up or thumbs down approach to reviewing ideas that are based on internal criteria, not market potential criteria.

4. The process is labored and painful resulting in a big innovation attrition rate.

5. Once ideas are shelved, they are never revisited.

6. No one wants to tell you that your baby is ugly.

7. Idea champions and their teams are left to hang out to dry once they stall.

8. Those who ask for forgiveness get more done than those who ask for permission.

9. Only the successful champions are showcased. When was the last time you received an invitation to the Failure Ball, highlighting those that tried and failed?

10. The process grossly underestimates the contribution of luck to success.

Innovation happens when you lead innovators, not when you try to manage it. The process means you have to resolve the inevitable tension between unpredictability and the need to create a way to prioritize and optimize resources.

Tickets to our fundraising bicycle event, the Tour of Failures, are now on sale, so be sure to reserve your spot. Proceeds will be used to seed projects that have made it through our vetting process. Thank you for your support.