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Over the past three years I have had the opportunity to work with a number of innovation teams on dozens of projects.  (It’s outside the scope of this blog to explain how Innovation Engineering works, but I’m happy to address that individually if interested readers want to  contact me.) Though the Innovation projects have each been very different, a few key misconceptions about innovations and innovation processes have been pretty constant.  I’m going to clear up these misconceptions over the next few weeks in a series of blogs. You can read the first one in the series here.

Myth 2.  Innovation is only about new products.

Certainly, innovation has a long association with new product development.  Indeed, innovation methods serve the NPD challenge very well; however, the same steps that we use to innovate new products (or services) can be used to innovate other types of problems, too.

A company with which we recently worked, for example, used Innovation Engineering approaches to generate hundreds of ideas to improve their manufacturing processes– most centered on breakthrough cost improvements.  The teams that I worked with all had seasoned manufacturing leader and engineers on their team.  Many of these team members were previously trained and adept in continuous improvement methods such as Six Sigma, Lean manufacturing, process-mapping, etc.  Yet, with the help of the Innovation Engineering creativity tools, which help identify, communicate and leverage what is meaningful and unique, they were able to look at their manufacturing processes from a very different perspective. As a result, they were able to create many new, novel ideas for their organizations in very short periods of time.  Being a long-time Lean Six Sigma instructor, it was refreshing to see some of my CI peers add Innovation methods to their existing continuous improvement tool kit.

I have been amazed at how many times someone has approached me after one of my Innovation Engineering workshops to say that they plan to use the ideation methods we cover to address a problem at their church. So while I’ve never been able to track their success, I would agree the same approaches could work wonderfully for church committees too.

So as you move into a new year, be open to the idea of applying Innovation to your business challenge– even if your challenge is not creating a new product!

Myth 1.  If you have a meaningfully unique innovation 100% of customers will buy it (Dec-2015)

Kevin GraysonKevin Grayson is Director of Business Growth and Innovation Services at NC State Industry Expansion Solutions. He provides strategic consulting, including business plan and sales development strategy, market penetration, market growth, new product introduction, innovation strategies and product design to clients in multiple industries.