The art of innovation

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, then the end is near.” – Jack Welsh

Innovation can be defined as redefining the status quo by introducing a new method, idea or a product. There are few different types of Innovation that can be categorized as; radical or disruptive, incremental innovation and process innovation. Changes in technology that render a generation of product redundant can be typically classified as radical innovation. A classic example of this is, flash drives radically transforming the process of data sharing, rendering compact discs(CDs) redundant. It wasn’t that long ago that CDs had transformed the mode of listening to pre-recorded music by driving audio cassettes out of the market. Technology giants such as Google, Apple, or even a service provider such as Foxxconn’s foray into electric self-driving cars are also examples of endeavors to effect disruptive innovation.

Incremental innovation, as the name suggests, is innovation undertaken in smaller increments. The internet company Amazon which transformed e-commerce, initially started as an alternative to brick and mortar book stores. Over time, it expanded it’s portfolio of products from consumer electronics to home appliances and furnishings. In additions, a daily deal service called “Local” was launched to increase customer allegiance. Amazon has even experimented with using drones to deliver goods in the US, as well as backward integrating with the production of content, to complement its content streaming service, Amazon Prime. As a result, the dominance of Netflix is expected to be strongly challenged by Amazon.

Process innovation happens when an organization solves an existing problem or a process in a radically different way, that in-turn generates something highly beneficial for the people who perform the process or those who rely on the process. For example, the introduction of a completely new sequence to an existing production process, that speeds production by 100%, can be considered a process innovation.

Irrespective of the type of innovation, the primary step is ideation followed by feasibility, piloting, prototyping, implementation etc. Of all the steps listed above, implementation is the most challenging phase. It demands a great degree of commitment, tremendous organizational will power and perseverance to achieve results. It is the ability to implement that separates good organizations from great organizations.

How is ability to innovate linked to willpower?

Willpower is generally considered as an individualistic trait. When many individuals within an organization apply their willpower towards a common goal, it becomes the organizations asset. When this asset is collectively used to fend off the deep ingrained habit of procrastination, the environment turns conducive for innovation.

Recent research has confirmed that procrastination is the single biggest factor that impedes organizational progress. Procrastination is like addiction, every time the human brain gets an inkling of a new unknown activity, the brain trigger reactions that activate the pain centers of the brain. As a result, the brain tries hard to remain in its zone of comfort. That’s when the brain starts devising irrational excuses that sound superficially reasonable to procrastinate.

Understanding a little about the cognitive psychology of procrastination can help organisations develop healthy preventatives against them.

Good luck innovating!!


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