The Essence of Innovation: 5 Principles

The Essence of Innovation: 5 Principles of Innovation Center for Creative Leadership (CCL)

Are you serious about driving innovation in your organization? Sustaining innovation and creating an organizational culture of innovation and creativity is a process with many components that interact in a dynamic and energizing way.

It’s all too easy to let specific issues or tactics dominate your efforts. By learning key principles of innovation, leaders and organizations can stay focused on the essence of innovation.

The 5 Principles of Sustaining Innovation

According to Bob Rosenfeld, the author of Making the Invisible Visible: The Human Principles for Sustaining Innovation, these 5 innovation principles give life to the process:

First: Innovation starts when people convert problems to ideas. New ideas are born through questions, problems, and obstacles. In order for the innovation process to flourish, it needs a climate that encourages innovation and inquiry, rather than undermines it. Make sure you have a psychologically safe culture so that people feel free to raise concerns and talk through issues. 

Second: Innovation also needs a system. All organizations have innovation systems. Some are formal, designed by leadership, and some are informal, taking place outside established channels. Systems for innovation fall into one of 5 categories: originator-assisted; targeted innovation; internal venturing; continuous improvement; or strategic transfer.

The third principle: Passion is the fuel, and pain is the hidden ingredient. Passion is what propels ideas. It’s what transforms other resources into profits, but it never shows up on a balance sheet. Unfortunately, when pursuing a passion or following a dream, pain is part of the process. Innovation leaders need to take the pain with the passion, and learn to manage both effectively.

A fourth principle that underlies the methods for innovation: Co-locating drives more effective exchanges. Co-location refers to physical proximity between people. Though not always possible with virtual and remote teams, it’s helpful for building the trust that is essential to the innovation process. It also increases the possibility for greater exchange of information, stimulation of creative thinking in one another, and critique of ideas during their formative stage. In the absence of physical co-location, remote teams should focus on enhancing authentic virtual communications so they work together as effectively as possible.

And lastly: Differences should be leveraged. The differences that normally divide people — such as language, culture, and problem-solving styles — can be a boon to innovation. When differences are used constructively, and people collaborate across boundaries, they can be leveraged to enhance and sustain the innovation process.

Use these 5 principles in your organization to stay focused and stay ahead!

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Help your organization drive forward these key principles of innovation with a customized learning journey for your leaders using our research-backed modules. Available leadership topics include Boundary Spanning, Communication, Collaboration & Teamwork, Innovation Leadership, Leading Remote & Virtual Teams, Psychological Safety & Trust, and more.

March 9, 2020
Leading Effectively Staff
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Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

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