25 Most Essential Insights About Innovation

by Gijs van Wulfen

Innovation is difficult. You are not the only one who thinks it’s a challenge. It has been a struggle for me the last 25 years as manager, consultant, facilitator and as founder of the FORTH innovation method. That’s why I love it actually. I love to do difficult things. My personal goal is to make innovation less complex so others will be able to innovate their product – and service portfolios and organizations – themselves.

I have written more than 80 posts about innovation the last sixteen months. Last week I reread them all to identify my most essential insights. Some are provoking. Others are simplifying. Here’s a list of quotes from my innovation articles. Please use them to lead your organizations in innovation:

1. In the long run a company cannot survive on doing the same things better and cheaper.

2. Most managers are like dogs. They bark at what they don’t know.

3. Managers say yes to innovation only if doing nothing is a bigger risk.

4. Continuous innovation is bullshit. You only innovate when you have to.

5. Organizations frustrate innovative employees.

6. Starting innovation is like a child starting to walk. Learn to love the struggle!

7. If there’s no urgency innovation is considered as playtime.

8. Most people only innovate when they have to. Pick the right moment.

9. Innovators need the patience of a hunter to wait for a shot that you’re sure you can make.

10. Never start innovation with an idea. You will fall in love with it. But love is blind.

11. A big idea is a new simple solution for a relevant problem or dream.

12. The best innovators are need seekers.

13. The problem of brainstorms is the inability of people to let go of the old ideas.

14. If you don’t get new insights you won’t get new ideas.

15. For most companies evolutionary ideas are quite revolutionary.

16. You can invent on your own, but in an organization you can never innovate alone!

17. Think outside the box and present your idea inside the box otherwise nothing will happen.

18. Innovators should bring back new business not new ideas.

19. Nobody buys innovation from a clown so bring back a new business case.

20. The voice of the customer is your best support for a new concept.

21. Innovators should stop writing plans. Innovation is learning by doing.

22. Innovation does not stop at the first “No”. That’s the moment it really starts.

23. Less creative ideas are better because they have a higher chance of becoming reality.

24. An organization is just like a herd. Focus on the slowest animals. When they start running too your organization really gets innovative.

So here were 24 of my essential insights about innovation. I hope some of them are helpful to you. As I promised 25 insights please do me a favor and share with us, as a comment, your own essential insight as professional about innovation as number 25……..

image credit: digital information image from bigstock

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Gijs van WulfenGijs van Wulfen helps organizations to structure the chaotic start of innovation as an author, speaker, and facilitator. He is the founder of the FORTH innovation method and author of the innovation bestseller The Innovation Expedition. He was chosen by LinkedIn as one of their first 150 Influencers. Are you looking for an inspiring innovation speaker? Check out his lectures, workshops videos, and review at gijsvanwulfen.com. Follow Gijs @gijsvanwulfen

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  1. Marshall Barnes

    I only have 2 questions for you Gijis,

    1. In how many different areas in your own professional career life have you applied what you know about innovation? (just talking about innovation doesn’t count)

    2. Out of those areas, how many significant breakthroughs have you had?

    Thanks…

    • Hi Marshall, while talking about innovation might not be enough (and I totally agree with your point) practice in innovation also teaches us that good ideas and insights can come from everywhere, and so often many bad ideas come from industry experts who cannot look at things through different lenses. So rather than challenging the track record (or the writing record in this case), let’s look at the insights: would you call your clients dogs barking at what they do not know?!?
      regards

      • Hi Filiberto,

        Thanks for joining the discussion. Clients or not that does not matter. I have at home two dogs who bark at what they don’t know. In business meetings and board rooms I see the same behavior. People are afraid of the new and tend to either “bark” or run away to avoid it.

        What’s your experience on this Filiberto?

        • Hi Gijs,
          ‘what’s your experience?’ I let you click on my website link to get an idea if you are interested in my professional and educational backgrounds
          First of all in an international environment many people from many different cultures would not be pleased to be referred as dogs barking, whether you have dogs at home or not. Becoming confrontational with important stakeholders, never helped anybody in consulting, unless you compare yourself to some religious leader. If you mean that a lot of people tend to be afraid of the unknown, I agree that happens especially in companies where culture requires them to do so. And it could be said in a more effective and global way
          regards

  2. I agree with the last poster. These points seem like nonsense to me from someone who has never innovated anything but wants to be an expert.

    “Innovators should bring back new business not new ideas.”

    If there are no new ideas then it is not innovation

    The few valid points are half baked requotes of what is found in every book about Design Thinking.

    There is such a thing as innovative organizations but the author has never worked in them I would guess from his points.

  3. Here is my suggestion for #25:
    while service quality is a ticket to play, service innovation is a ticket to stay!

  4. Hi Marshall,

    Thank you for your provoking questions. In my 25+ years of working I have been involved in innovation i a lot of different sectors. I guess more than 50, varying from the food industry, machine industry to services like financial services, health care to government sectors. In most of those cases, organizations applied the FORTH innovation methodology to structure their front end of innovation process and generate new concepts. As being in the food sector, I managed one break through innovation. Later in my career the breakthroughs have been realized by the projects team applying the methodology and not by me, as their facilitator.

    I hope you enjoyed me sharing my insights in the article.

    What are your insights Marshall?

  5. #25 – It is far better to genuinely innovate without ever mentioning the word, than to call it innovation when it’s not

  6. Marshall Barnes

    Filiberto:

    No, I wouldn’t call my clients dogs barking at what they don’t know because I don’t go around couching or describing real life situations in clever sounding, simple minded metaphors or pseudo-zenish pronouncements. After all, dogs often bark at what they do know as well…

    Besides, you missed the point which wasn’t a query to you in any case, nor was it a challenge. But since you brought it up, how would you answer the same questions?

  7. Marshall Barnes

    Hi Gijis:

    Thanks for addressing my questions. I’m saving my insights for my book…

  8. Gijs van Wulfen

    What a pity you do not share your insights here Marshall. A blog like this is the perfect place.

  9. Gijs,
    Congratulations. Your thoughts were right on target…and I enjoyed them all. As one of the most experienced innovation designers around I am probably in a better position to give you credit.

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