In Part One and Part Two, I talked about fingers one to four: the Doers, Fiscal Alignment, Corporate Desire and Managed Management. Now it’s time to visit The Thumb: Vital Nutrients. Here’s the handy visual, just to keep things straight.
The Thumb: Vital Nutrients
Vital Nutrients are the information sources that feed the innovation process. Think of them as idea lube, a pre-requisite for the smooth running of the innovation process. A steady influx of information makes corporate soil fertile ground for new ideas. And Vital Nutrients must be cultivated.
There are three types of information source:
- Out of the blue
- Re-purposing of existing ideas
- Cross-pollination from other domains (adjacent industries and unrelated industries)
Out of the Blue is actually the rarest source of innovation and the least efficient to orchestrate. When it happens it’s great, but you can’t plan for it. That also means you can’t rely on it.
Repurposing existing ideas is great soil for incremental innovation ideas. It’s unlikely to lead to huge new ideas, but it can provide a steady stream of useful improvements.
Cross pollination is one of the most underrated nutrients. It comes in two flavors: adjacent industries and unrelated industries. It’s easiest to explain with a couple of examples. A mobile phone manufacturer might explore laptop display technologies (adjacent industries) or nano-technology based architectural window coatings (unrelated industry). Adjacent industries are usually easy to identify. Unrelated industries are more like fishing expeditions – you don’t know quite what you’ll find until you get there, but over time you’ll develop a nose for good places to visit.
It’s easier than ever to find information, but you do have to take the time to look. Team members need to cultivate their own list of blogs, websites, forums and other sources. They need to be able to allocate time to simply absorbing information without any penalty for the appearance of not working productively.
Like the innovation process itself, there may not be short-term, measurable rewards, but it’s an essential task for every member of the team.
Equally important, each team member should maintain their own sources. Some overlap is fine, but you should make sure you aren’t all reading the same sources, otherwise you’ll quickly build an echo chamber that artificially focuses your scope.
Well that seems like enough foundation, backstory and comparisons. In my next innovation post, I’ll talk about the actual steps in the process.