Monday, July 4, 2016

Can You Teach Engineers to Innovate?

"The answer to this question is:  no.  You cannot teach people to innovate.  You can teach them tools and techniques like TRIZ or trend spotting.  You can teach them process methodologies that lead them from customer needs to ideas to prototypes to customer validation tests.  You can teach them to think about innovation outcomes that are more disruptive or radical than incremental change.  You can show them Doblin’s Ten Types model to help them think through the potential outcomes of an innovation activity.  But until they understand that innovation is a holistic implementation of all of these factors, and requires them to release their fear, uncertainty and doubt, you are hammering jello to a wall.  It will not stick.  The wall must be removed as the knowledge is applied.
People can innovate.  What we can do is accelerate, simplify and make their innovation activities more productive and efficient through tools and techniques.  But what we cannot do is remove fear, uncertainty, corporate constraints and a lack of executive commitment.  We cannot force organizations to sustain innovation activities so the work is repeated until it becomes familiar and eventually second nature.  So the real question is: can we teach organizations and corporate cultures to innovate?  We know the answer to this is yes, but few companies have the time and patience to make the change that’s necessary."

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