Innovation ecology: A systemic view of the innovation process

Here is a simple roadmap that describes how to nurture a budding idea into a fully blooming innovation.

In a recent article by Paul Sloane on this website, I was fascinated by his description of “tools” for innovation that allows one to work with ideas and make them reality. I reflected on this article and saw that this system can be distilled to a fairly simple roadmap – which I labeled Innovation Ecology: how innovation grows and sustains itself from an idea to innovation.

Like any system that is to be successful there are events that are interelated that occur in a rough order that becomes the ecology surrounding innovation. Let me describe what I observed:

Vision - Innovation always starts with an insight or vision or “a-ha” moment. The seed is planted and the nurturing begins. With the moment comes a vision of the impact of the innovation and stirs the passion to move this that must be there from the onset. Passion must spread and you use every opportunity to share and create more energy by spreading the word. There will be many who at that point tell you why it won’t work, a few will tell you why it will. Fear of change is the ultimate wall against the buy-ins that will be needed to make this happen. Go outside the box and see from a different vantage point and establish your pathway.

Dynamic process – the process from idea to innovation is paved with failures. You must build, test, refine and then do it again. By establishing collaborative space, you will hopefully ensure that you don’t miss anything and make sure you don’t fail in the same way twice. Remember the famous Edison line that while creating the light bulb, he didn’t fail a 1,000 times, he found a 1,000 ways it would not work.

Venture capitalist mentality - treat your ideas as part of a portfolio of innovations. A VC will expect significantly more failures in their portfolio than successes; 1 in 7 is a number that is commonly thrown about. It is that 1 in 7 or 1 in 10 or 1 in a million that can change the way things are done or change the world.

Innovation drives us all. Nurture the ecosystem to allow it to emerge.