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Application of better solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulated needs, or existing market needs

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Carla Faraguna edited on 16 Jan, 2020
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Application of better solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulated needs, or existing market needs


Much has been written about where innovation comes from and what distinguishes an innovative mind. Our research and experience suggest that inquiry is at the heart of it. Innovators have an inclination and a capacity to examine what others often leave unexamined.

To manage innovation in a systematic way, you have to have a widely understood definition of innovation. Without this, it's impossible to know how much "real" innovation is going on and whether it's paying off. Just as critically, you can't hold leaders responsible for innovation if no one can agree on what's innovative and what's not.

Having a practical, agreed-upon definition of innovation makes it easier to set goals for innovation, to allocate resources to innovative projects, to plan a cadence of innovative product launches, to target advertising on high-value breakthroughs, and to measure innovation performance.

No matter how committed, a CEO can't single-handedly reconstitute a company for innovation. The entire top team has to be on board. Beyond this, the re-engineering efforts need a strong C-suite leader to be responsible for the design and construction of the company's innovation engine. We call this the "innovation architect." He or she is a bit like the lead engineer on a car program, whose job is to make sure that all the pieces come together in one coher­ent system. In the case of innovation, this means making sure that innovation is meas­ured in the right way, that employees at all levels have been trained as business innovators and have access to the right insights and tools, that customers and suppli­ers are plugged into the company's innovation platform, that innovation projects are adequately funded and monitored, that hiring and promotion criteria help to strengthen the company's innovation "gene pool," that innovation values get continu­ally reinforced, and that the company's innovation pipeline is robust enough to meet the company's growth objectives.


If your company is really serious about building an innovation engine, then it needs to upgrade everyone's innovation skills, agree on what counts as innovation, establish comprehen­sive metrics, hold leaders accountable for innovation, and retool its management processes so they foster innovation everywhere, all the time. These can't be isolated initiatives; they must work in harmony.

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