It is important to get beyond the word "Innovation". The word captures the complex processes of generating and executing ideas. It so easy to use and it makes us feel good. Yet the word itself isn't useful in helping us understand the complex processes that it involves. If we want to create environments and programs conducive to increasing innovative activities, it is important to build a robust vocabulary and knowledge base that informs the discussion. As a part of our exploration into Nashville's innovation ecosystem, we set out to better understand and raise awareness of the mechanics of innovation. What we learned was that increasing the diversity and availability of information is essential to the innovation process and the quality of city's social network is central to facilitating this. How this happens is what we will explore over the next several posts.
Innovation is more than creative ideas. It is in large part the execution of the ideas. Creativity without execution is not innovation. Too often innovation is only associated with the moment of inspiration. The commercialization of a creative solution is a critical part of the innovation process and it takes a network of individuals to accomplish this. The five components of the innovation ecosystem: enabling environment, physical infrastructure, capital, networks, and talent, work together to facilitate the generation and commercialization of new ideas.
Not all innovations are radical nor do they have to be. Innovation does not necessarily have to disrupt an entire industry to be considered innovative. Radical innovations are the ones that receive the most attention and are sought after relentlessly. Examples include the introduction of autonomous vehicles, application of blockchain to new industries, or the development of the internet. They have considerable commercial value when they are successfully executed. They disrupt the status quo and make other products or service obsolete. Radical innovations are typically the result of the reassembling of external disparate innovations and knowledge into new insights. More common are incremental innovations. They involve the cumulative changes to a product or process. They are the creative solutions focused on improvement rather than an entirely new approach. Incremental innovations regularly result from learning from customer’s and partner’s experience with a product. In either case, the fuel for innovation is new knowledge, experience, and relationships within the network. To ensure these inputs are available within the ecosystem and each actor is prepared to appreciate and act on them, we found the following characteristics and operations are essential:
- Mindset to recognize and be open to new ideas
- Build bridges to new knowledge
- Facilitate the creation of weak and strong ties
- Strengthen collaboration and tie maintenance
- Engender Serendipity
- Encourage exploration and harvesting of ideas
- Time for reflection and engagement
We will explore these characteristics and operations in the next several posts starting with the importance of one's mindset in approaching innovation.