Is There a Process for Innovation?

Post written by Chris Spagnuolo. Follow Chris on Twitter 9 comments

Lots of organizations spend time and money trying hard to figure out how to build a system or a process that encourages creativity and innovation.  I’d argue that they’re wasting their time.  Innovation doesn’t come out of a process.  Innovation doesn’t come from a systematic approach.  Innovation comes from people connecting with each other on a deeper level that can’t be turned into a system.  It’s different in every case. You can’t write an organizational document on how to be innovative. If you need proof of this, consider how Steve Jobs talks about Apple and how they innovate:

“The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that’s not what it’s about. Process makes you more efficient. But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.”

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  1. Tweets that mention Is There a Process for Innovation? | Chris Spagnuolo's EdgeHopper -- Topsy.com said,

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by nontster, Sarah Jane Robertson. Sarah Jane Robertson said: Is there a process for innovation? http://bit.ly/bHV9Tg [...]

  2. Max said,

    Steve Jobs my be all warm and fuzzy now about innovation but don’t be naive to his almost fascist approach to product development.  I am not saying it doesn’t work, I’m just saying it’s far from a warm fuzzy, Kumbaya process with Apple.

  3. Chris said,

    Thanks for the comment Max.  Just an FYI, this is not a recent quote from Steve Jobs. It’s from way back in 2004 in a Business Week article “The Seed of Apple’s Innovation”. And I don’t think he was saying it’s a warm fuzzy Kumbaya place that innovation comes from  but it is from a collaborative place where people are fairly free to think and express new ideas. And for that, you can’t create a system that pumps out innovation.  That kind of place relies on people, not systems or processes.

  4. Adrian said,

    Thanks Chris. I’ve worked at two companies that thought they could put a process around innovation. The end result was never innovative. I believe that you and Steve Jobs are correct in that innovation and creativity are based on people and collaboration. Great blog, keep it up.

  5. Chris said,

    I know exactly what you mean Adrian. I’ve worked at places in the past that try govern ideas too.  Most companies I’ve seen that have processes around managing or governing ideas are usually not innovators.  They’re reactive companies that follow and chase the market instead of leading with ideas that change the game.

  6. Derek Neighbors said,

    There isn’t a process for innovation, but it is foolish to think that companies can’t do things to help make it happen.  The root of innovation is creativity.  Creativity is generated out of discipline.  Certainly there are processes that can be had to help people become more disciplined.
    Beyond process, environment and culture are paramount to innovation.  It is important that there is a culture that allows people to try new things and not be punished when they fail.  The environment needs to encourage people to collaborate and connect.
    It is true that companies can not “force” innovation through a magic bullet, but only dying ones are putting their head in the sand and doing nothing to encourage it.

  7. badmash said,

    I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?

  8. aparadekto said,

    Hey, I can’t view your site properly within Opera, I actually hope you look into fixing this.

  9. Chris said,

    @badmash – I post lots about innovation and technology so if you dig those topics, I hope you’ll stick around,


    @aparadekto – Can you shoot me an email with screenshots or more details please?

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