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Episode #55 Creating a Culture of Innovation with Scott Berkun

August 12, 2008  ·  31 minutes

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Innovation has become such a buzzword, it's nearly meaningless. But that doesn't mean innovation itself is dead. In this week’s show, we sat down with Scott Berkun, the dynamic speaker and author of "The Myths of Innovation."

Show Notes

"We’re struggling with how to measure how well we are innovating […] Are we innovating better this year than last year? How would I know?"

If you work in a larger company and you haven't heard a statement like this, you're going to. Innovation has become such a buzzword, it's nearly meaningless. But that doesn't mean innovation itself is dead. In this week’s show, we sat down with Scott Berkun, the dynamic speaker and author of "The Myths of Innovation."

Innovation is critical, but it’s not being defined for those folks challenged with implementing it. Innovation is hard work. Scott asks that we face facts here; to find big, new ideas that will change things for the better will never be easy.

OK, how do we innovate? Scott suggests that the key word is risk. The best organizations (Google, Apple, Pixar and 3M are offered as examples) promote this through a culture where it’s OK to take risks, where failure is acceptable if valuable lessons can be learned. Whenever risks can be taken in a safe environment innovation is much more likely to be successful.

Often times middle management is actually the key to fostering this environment. They see the organizational “big picture” and can shield the front line workers who are challenged with focusing on the work. It allows for in-house entrepreneurship, allowing for creativity and flexibility outside of their traditional responsibilities. Google's "20% time" is a popular example of time where employees can branch out on self-made projects. In Google's case, it gave birth to products like GMail.

Innovation happens in both small and large organizations, but in large companies, it takes dedicated resources, and the expectation of some amount of failure. Scott has found that in organizations resistant to change, you can find success in pitching that innovation is the tradition of the company.

As for Innovation and User Experience, in the early design stage there's a delicate balance between collecting data from users and knowing where to take calculated risks that may run counter to the data. When taking a different approach, don't be afraid to step out on a limb. Then test to see if it works.

Of course, this is just a taste of the half hour discussion we had, so you'll want to listen to the entire thing to get the most of Scott's insights on the subject.