Welcome to the 2010 edition of the
Practical Innovator Newsletter! This issue
is late, but I hope it finds you feeling
more positive about the economic situation in
the US and elsewhere around the globe --
despite the many new challenges that continue
to pop up every day!
I also hope that you will continue to enjoy
this newsletter which is designed to provide
practical ideas, techniques, and experiences
for leaders to build more innovation and
creativity into their organizations.
Have a wonderful spring! And please
newsletter on to anyone
who might be interested in its
|Imitation over Innovation?
A recent article in the Boston Globe (April
18, 2010) titled "Is Innovation Over-rated?"
caught my eye. According to the author, it
may be time to appreciate the "power of the
It is of course very true that innovators
have made modern life what
it is today, with dramatic changes in disease
control, transportation, technology, and
other fields. And is it also true that
politicians and business
gurus continue to sing the praises of
innovation as the
lifeblood of the economy.
Yet, the author
suggests that our relentless focus on
innovation may obscure "the
value of its much maligned relative,
imitation." According to Professor Oded
Ohio State's Fisher College of Business,
imitation -- if done right -- can be just as
important as innovation for companies that
to grow efficiently."
For those leaders who prefer to build on
what has been done before (using their Navigator
talents), rather than
striving to come up with the breakthrough
idea, this is a refreshing perspective. The
world's bias toward innovation too often
obscures the contribution that comes from
improving on the work of others.
Of course, it's important to
recognize that imitation, like innovation,
needs to be done right. The advice from
experts includes: Be sure to keep an
open mind while at the same time paying close
attention to the details of execution. Look
closely, says Shenkar, to make sure you
"understand why something was successful, and
whether its success applies" to your
situation. If it does, he argues, "rip it
off as quickly as you can!"
|Breakthrough Creativity Profile -- NEW Developments
How would you like to take the Breakthrough
Creativity Profile online? Think
about the time that would save! For those of
you who are using the BCP in your work, you
know that it takes roughly 20-30 minutes to
answer and score the Profile, time that cuts
into any learning session.
The great news is that I have recently
embarked on a new project with publisher HRDQ
update the current hard copy BCP in two ways.
First, we will be putting the BCP online to
make it easier to administer and get results.
are adding new creative problem solving
material that will facilitate the application
of the BCP's results in an organization.
The "bad" news is that the new online
facility will not be available until early
next year. However, stay tuned for
announcements about how you might be able to
help in this exciting project!
|Using the Breakthrough Creativity Profile with Your Team?
Have you ever thought of using the
Breakthrough Creativity Profile on your team?
To see if there are any dominant talents
that might impact the performance of the
team and its abilities to creatively solve
problems? My preliminary research has found,
for example, that if a majority of team
members prefer the Harmonizer or Poet talent as
one of their two favorite talents, the team
tends to be less comfortable with the conflict
that is inevitable in the development of
Or when the majority of team members have
dominant talents that are extraverted
(Explorer, Adventurer, Pilot or Harmonizer),
the team tends to be less adept at listening
other, and not a lot of reflection happens.
And teams with predominately Navigator talents
tend to be overly focused on details and may
fail to take a whole systems view of the problem.
like to find out what the dominant talents of
your team are and how they impact the
ability to creatively solve
problems? And just as importantly, what you
can do to optimize the team's creative
Another exciting project I am
working on with HRDQ for delivery early next
year is to develop an online team
report which will aggregate the individual
profiles of team members and describe the
strengths and challenges of particular
patterns of the team's profile as they relate
to creativity and creative problem solving.
|Can Creativity Suffer from Too Much Communication?
Studies of innovation teams in several Dutch
companies revealed that "frequency of
communication was found to be a significant
factor in creative output." This is
probably no real surprise. However, what was
quite interesting was the finding that when
communication exceeds a certain threshold, it
can actually become a negative and cause the
teams to perform less well.
Why? Because too much communication "can
lead to a group-think mentality that stifles
originality." As team members build stronger
relationships through communications, they
may start to
evaluate assumptions less rigorously. Others
may coast on the group's ideas and expend
less of their own effort on the project.
Of course, too little communication can be
just as harmful. Finding the right
balance, as with so much else around
creativity and innovation, is very critical!
From "Intelligence," MIT Sloan Management
Review (Summer 2005)
|Measuring Innovation: The 2009 Innovation Summit
For those readers interested in innovation,
here's a brief summary of the 2009 Innovation
Summit in Cologne Germany, where the focus
was on measuring innovation.
discussion at the Summit revolved around our
conviction that measurement is the
missing link in getting innovation right.
Why is that? Our research finds that there
are at least
four reasons why metrics help leaders get results
from their innovation efforts.
1. First, metrics help leaders maintain focus and
attention, a central problem in managing
innovation. By sending the right signals,
providing discipline, and assigning
specific accountability, metrics keep the
organization headed in the right direction.
2. Metrics provide concrete
employees can readily understand. For
example, with an innovation strategy that
revolved around patient care, leaders turned
a vague concept into something employees
could impact by measuring
customer satisfaction, cycle times of
clinical and administrative processes, and
numbers of referrals.
3. Besides making a concept real, metrics
also provide feedback and learning. They
allow leaders to see if a strategy is working
or whether a mid-course correction is needed.
4. Finally, since innovation projects are
projects, shorter-term milestones and
measurable deliverables provide the small
wins so necessary to keep teams motivated.
At the Summit, we also discussed the ten best
practices for measuring innovation.
|Latest news from Australia
While I was in
with members of the Malleefowl Preservation
Group's (MPG) Management Committee to develop a
SWOT analysis. I recently received an email
from Susanne Dennings, project coordinator
for the group, who writes that the MPG appears
on a turnaround.
To encourage broader participation, the MPG
is moving its headquarters from the small
farming community of Ongerup
to Albany, a much larger town southwest of
According to Susanne, "The re-energized group
of volunteers has
recognised MPG's current strengths
and is now working on addressing the gaps.
The SWOT analysis you did with us is so
valuable there. Thank you again for that
Susanne goes on to say that the Malleefowl
has received "heaps of recent
publicity" on Australian national television
and that the Malleefowl Centre in
just hatched 4 malleefowl chicks. Finally,
she adds that the economic downturn has
actually provided new opportunities for the MPG.
Australian government guidelines, groups
requesting federal grants must demonstrate
local community based organizations, like the
MPG. Thus many new
possibilities of collaboration are appearing
on the horizon!
|Congratulations to Gentle Giant Moving Company
Congratulations to long-time client Gentle
Giant Moving Company, who received another
award this year. In 2007, Gentle Giant was
listed by the Wall Street Journal as one of
the 25 best managed small companies in the
United States, because of its strong
work environment and company culture. This
year, Gentle Giant was
recognized as Independent Mover of the Year
American Moving and Storage Association, a
national trade organization that each year
recognizes one moving company for its
outstanding performance and significant
contributions to the moving industry.
What's Not So New About Creativity?
While advice on building more creativity and
innovation into organizations continues to
abound, it is not necessarily all that new!
Many of us have been sharing similar advice
Take for example, a
not-so-recent article in Fast
Company (December, 2004), where
Harvard Business School Professor Teresa
Amabile described "The 6 Myths of
Creativity," based on her research in
organizations. At the top of her list, was
the myth that "Creativity Comes from Creative
According to Amabile, "almost all of the
this field shows that anyone with normal
intelligence is capable of doing some degree
of creative work. Creativity depends on a
number of things: experience, including
knowledge and technical skills; talent; an
ability to think in new ways; and the
capacity to push through uncreative dry
spells. Because people who are turned on by
their work often work more creatively,
supporting this intrinsic motivation in
organizations is especially important."
She goes on to say that over the past several
years, organizations have paid
more attention to creativity and innovation
than at any other time in her career. But she
believes most people aren't anywhere near to
realizing their creative potential, in part
because they're laboring in environments that
impede the personal motivation to be more
creative. "The anecdotal
evidence suggests many companies still have a
long way to go to remove the barriers to
What can be done to
improve the environment for more creativity?
Interestingly, the barriers that have existed
over the past
several decades continue to stymie leaders
today. What are those barriers?
One of the biggest and most stubborn
obstacles in my opinion turns out to be a
According to an article in this month's
Harvard Business Review, in order to bring
more creativity to their organizations,
leaders need to:
- Create an intense environment that
requires people's best thinking and work
- Define an opportunity that causes people
to stretch their thinking and behaviors
- Drive sound decisions by cultivating
rigorous debate among team members
- Give other people ownership of results
and invest in their success
What seems like clear, simple advice,
however, proves difficult in practice. My
research indicates that too often leaders are
afraid to let go of control and instead stick
to the outworn belief that only senior
leaders have all the answers.
agree? I would welcome your thoughts as to
why these barriers to more creativity in
organizations persist and what can be done to
break them down!
"When you have exhausted all possibilities,
remember this - you haven't."
-- Thomas A.
"Supposing you have tried and failed again
and again. You may have a fresh start any
moment you choose, for this thing that we
call 'failure' is not the falling down, but
the staying down."
-- Mary Pickford, American
"Most people have some degree of talent for
something.... talent lies around in us like
kindling waiting for a match, but some
people, just as gifted as others, are less
lucky. Fate never drops a match on them."
-- Wallace Stegner, American
Lynne Levesque Consulting
consultancy dedicated to
accelerating the strategic and
creative performance of leaders and their
organizations -- in ways you've never seen
And now joining with international
colleagues to form DAGAZ Global,
focusing on the challenges of implementing
and measuring innovation.