Before the patent and trademark attorneys get up in arms, let me explain. There are a rare few on this planet who come up with completely revolutionary ideas. Albert Einstein comes to mind. For folks who study the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ), you’ll know that only 1% of the inventions studied—they looked at more than 200,000 patent filings--fit this category and were classified as Pioneering Inventions. Another 4% were considered an invention outside a paradigm. The rest, well, they were great ideas, but not necessarily revolutionary or “inventive.” They were, instead, smart people, employing inventive ideas that other people had come up with. But these smart people combined those great ideas and applied them in new ways. Innovation through Combination.
The Foundation of Sustainable Innovation
You can brute force innovation without inspiration for a while. Smart people and businesses have shown that time and again. If there is a problem to solve, people will find ways to do it. But when you look at individuals or businesses that are continually innovating and creating competitive advantage, what’s the common thread? The answer, for me, is a simple one. Connection with Purpose. Said another way, connection with your Why, your reason for doing what you do. With that, creativity, innovation and the energy to put in the hard work to create it are natural outcomes. If you find yourself trying to innovate and don’t feel passionate about why you’re doing it, the odds are that innovation will be a lot harder to come by and you certainly will struggle to sustain it for the long-term.
If You’ve Found Your Why, There are Roadmaps, Processes, to Innovation
TRIZ tells us that there are 40 inventive solutions which have repeated themselves time and again and serve as the foundation for problem solving. After looking at more than 250 businesses, St Gallens Business School has gone so far as to define 55 identifiable business model patterns that can help define nearly every business we see today. Some might see this as depressing. It limits our ego-driven need to be an inventor. For me, I find it refreshing. There is a roadmap for catalyzing our thinking and ideas and tools to help us get there. The process is Combination Innovation.
The Way Out, Why-Powered Combination Innovation
For those looking for solutions, they’re there if you’re committed to finding them AND you connect them to your WHY--infusing the process with the required passion to make it happen. I’ve been blown away by what Why-focused Executive teams can accomplish in a short period of time with some well-prepared external stimuli. The process, Combination Innovation, is simple. Introduce external stimuli such as business model patterns, solutions sets used to solve other challenges in other industries, emerging trends, data and ideas to imitate--to recombine. Focus on how to apply that stimuli to your business. Run them through a defined set of vetting criteria. For the winners, determine how they fit into your business model, including your Why. Repeat. Great ideas emerge and often the "solution," the innovation, is a combination of those ideas put together. For those really looking for truly out-of-the-box, introduce new voices in the room to guide the process and offer fresh perspective.
Innovation Is For Everyone and It Creates Competitive Advantage
Innovation isn't just for rocket scientists. Nor is it something to be ignored. It is for anyone, 1) willing to reconnect with their Why and 2) willing to open their mind to looking at and combining things in new ways. Be bold. Be daring. Imitate to Innovate and create competitive advantage!
The voice and stories from this blog originate from the collective wisdom and experiences not just of our team, but with those we were fortunate to learn from.