On my travels I talk to a number of people who claim that they just don’t ‘get innovation’. They could be ignorant but usually they are suffering from Innovation Confusion. Holistic, whole company Innovation is an abstract concept but how complicated is it? The answer may be more puzzling than you think.

First of all let us consider a simple Innovation project. Typically it consists of a number of steps from inception through, audit, idea generation and prototyping to roll out. Add some project management and knowledge transfer activities and you have it nailed. So far so good, although you may question what these steps actually are.

Now we are ready to consider continuous Innovation. Imagine all your Innovation steps neatly drawn out onto a Gantt chart and then wrap them around on themselves so that your nice straight lines become a series of concentric circles. This is but a snapshot in time so now add the time dimension. Imagine your circles turned on their side like a series of disks and then add time by moving the disks from left to right. You should now be looking at a series of concentric cylinders.

Now many companies will have several ongoing Innovation initiatives, all at different stages and involving different people so consider all of your innovation projects in the manner described above – several sets of concentric cylinders all moving at varying rates and requiring management and resources. Would this convince you that your organisation, and especially your managers, need some assistance in getting to grips with the situation?

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