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Over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to work with numerous innovation teams on dozens of projects at several different organizations. At IES, we help companies implement a new process and culture we call Innovation Engineering. It is outside the scope of this blog to explain how Innovation Engineering works, but I’m happy to address that individually if interested readers will contact me. (Also, see Note 1 below.)

While all the innovation teams that I have coached have had very different projects, I have noticed several common misconceptions about innovations and innovation processes. I have noticed several myths that I plan to cover in a series of five blogs over the next several weeks. With apologies up-front for lack of creativity, I will call these “Kevin’s 5-myths to creating innovation”.

Myth 5. A great innovation has no death threats.

This may be the greatest myth that I have addressed in my short series. All ideas have death threats. In fact, the greater the idea, the more likely it is to have very significant—and numerous—death threats.  Some of the innovation teams that I have coached have seemingly wanted to continue to run endless CREATE sessions in an attempt to find a great idea that has no death threats … but those just don’t exist.  I heard Steve Jobs say, in an old interview that I just recently stumbled upon is paraphrased here, “if an idea does not have some very significant challenges to overcomeit is probably not very innovative.”

Another way to think about this, is that lack of creativity is not the number one challenge of innovation—the key challenge for innovators is the problem solving that it takes to resolve death threats or at least mitigate the risks associated with death threats.  A recent article from PDMA’s vision magazine said “the most successful innovation companies remind us that innovation almost never fails due to lack of creativity, but almost always because of lack of discipline.”  Of course to be the most successful at resolving death threats, innovation teams need an effective method for problem solving.  In Innovation Engineering, we apply the time-tested PDSA approach to resolve and mitigate death threats.

So remember, as you begin your innovation journey—you need both creativity (Innovation), but also problem-solving (Engineering) to be successful!

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

Myth 2. Innovation is only about new products (Jan 2016)

Myth 3. VOC is best place to get ideas for new innovations (Feb 2016)

Myth 4. A well-defined, fully implementation system ensures innovation success. (March 2016)

Note 1: Upcoming Innovation Engineering courses at NC State – IES

  • June 29 Greensboro
  • July 15 Wilmington
  • August 16 Kannapolis
  • August 30- Sept 1      3-day Innovation Engineering Green Belt (New)

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.