How To Get Innovation to Succeed Instead of Fail



“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” – Peter Drucker

I’m diving deeper into patterns and practices for innovation.

Along the way, I’m reading and re-reading some great books on the art and science of innovation.

3 Decades of Experience Focused on Innovation – What Did We Learn?

One innovation book I’m seriously enjoying is Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of building Breakthroughs by Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel, and Brian Quinn.

Right up front, Larry Keeley shares some insight into the journey to this book.  He says that this book really codifies, structures, and simplifies three decades of experience from Doblin, a consulting firm focused on innovation.

For more than three decades, Doblin tried to answer the following question:

“How do we get innovation to succeed instead of fail?”

Along the journey, there were a few ideas that they used to bridge the gap in innovation between the state of the art and the state of the practice.

Here they are …

You Need to Balance 3 Dimensions of Innovation (Theoretical Side + Academic Side + Applied Side)

Larry Keeley and his business partner Jay Doblin, a design methodologist, always balanced three dimensions of innovation: a theoretical side, an academic side, and an applied side.

Keely, Walters, Pikkel, and Quinn write:

“Over the years we have kept three important dimensions in dynamic tension.  We have a theoretical side, where we ask and seek real answers to tough questions about innovation.  Simple but critical ones like, ‘Does brainstorming work?’ (it doesn’t), along with deep and systemic ones like, ‘How do you really know what a user wants when the user doesn’t know either?’ 

We have an academic side, since many of us are adjunct professors at Chicago’s Institute of Design and this demands that we explain our ideas to smart young professionals in disciplined, distinctive ways. 

And third, we have an applied side, in that have been privileged to adapt our innovation methods to many of the world’s leading global enterprises and start-ups that hanker to be future leading firms.”

You Need a Blend of Analysis + Synthesis to Innovate Better

Innovation is a balance and blend of analysis and synthesis.  Analysis involves tearing things down, while synthesis is building new things up.

Keely, Walters, Pikkel, and Quinn write:

“From the beginning, Doblin has itself been interdisciplinary, mixing social sciences, technology, strategy, library sciences, and design into a frothy admixture that has always tried to blend both analysis, breaking tough things down, with synthesis, building new things up. 

Broadly, we think any effective innovation effort needs plenty of both, stitched together as a seamless whole.”

Orchestrate the Ten Types of Innovation to Make a Game-Changing Innovation

Game-changing innovation is an orchestration of the ten types of innovation.

Keely, Walters, Pikkel, and Quinn write:

“The heart of this book is built around a seminal Doblin discovery: that there are (and have always been) ten distinct types of innovation that need to be orchestrated with some care to make a game-changing innovation.“

The main idea is that innovation fails if you try to solve it with just one dimension.

You can’t just take a theoretical approach, and hope that it works in the real-world.

At the same time, innovation fails if you don’t leverage what we learn from the academic world and actually apply it.

And, if you know the ten types of innovation, you can focus your efforts more precisely.

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