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The multi disciplinary approach for Innovation

I think we've all learned our college majors do not
predetermine our life's work.  I remember
shopping for film schools with my oldest. 
She called the first week of school to tell us she switched to pursuing
nutrition.  After graduation she went
back to be a nurse.  You never know.
So many feel a college education in humanities is a waste,
with today's emphasis on data and numbers and the like.  When you think about crowd sourcing; bringing
many people from diverse backgrounds together, the advantages are certainly
discovered from diversity.  Everyone
looks at a problem differently.
Our experiences, and our memories, contribute to who we are,
how we see the world, how we think through problems and what we bring to the
table.  The front end of innovation is
influenced by its participants and the quality of the participants clearly
influences the outcome of our innovation efforts.

There are many approaches to the front end of innovation.
 I talk to Chief Innovation Officers from
big companies all day, every day.   I've seen all these different approaches:

  • Departments generate ideas and the winner, selected by the
    department head, gets put into a pool. 
    The next step is usually a spreadsheet bandied about amongst
    managers.  They rank them and some
    arbiter selects the best ones.

  • Electronic suggestion boxes are made available to the
    populace of an organization.  Employees
    submit ideas as they occur.  Someone is
    tasked with sorting through the ideas and cull the winners.  This almost always produces two kinds of
    ideas:  Incremental innovation (how to do
    things a bit better) and ideas no one is interested in but the ideators.

  • Crowdsourcing via 30 day challenges where ideas are
    submitted and others vote and comment. The winner goes into production and the
    winning inventor gets a prize.  This can
    yield a hold back by clever people until the last day of the campaign so no one
    'steals' their idea.  Not conducive to
    collaboration.

  • Early stage front end teams (usually multiple teams)
    researching new technology and markets. 
    They foster and shepherd good ideas until they're presentable to an
    arbiter (boss).  This works best when there
    is a business person and a scientist/technical person.  Sort of a mini multi-disciplinary
    crowdsource. 

  • Periodic brainstorming sessions.  This can work.  But obviously would benefit from an ongoing
    effort instead of a single event. 
    Sometimes the winning idea is from the HPPITR (Highest Paid Person In
    The Room).  If the boss picks it, who has
    the guts to argue?  Or worse the founder's
    kid.

The benefits of diversity pay off because we all tend to get
narrow in our thinking.  If I'm a hammer
everything looks like a nail.  Same thing
holds true for chemists, computer technologists, buyers, marketing people
etc.  We frame the world and our ideas
from our own perspective.  Breakthrough
innovation is much more likely to pop up when a variety of disciplines (and other demographic diversity) bring fresh
thinking to the discussion.
This diversity extends to multiple disciplines, genders, age
groups, geography and every other demographic you can think of.
So the question you have to ask yourself is:  Who's on my team to help us come up with new
ideas?
Notes:  The social life of memory, Harvard Business
Review, Daniel Schacter, 6/2013
Ron Shulkin blogs researches and writes about enterprise
technology focused on social media, innovation, voice of the customer,
marketing automation and enterprise feedback management.  You can learn more about Ron at his biography web site:www.shulkin.net. You can follow him Twitter. You can follow his blogs
at this Facebook group
You can connect with Ron on LinkedIn.  Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas
for CogniStreamer', an innovation ecosystem.  CogniStreamer serves as a
Knowledge Management System, Idea Management System and Social Network for
Innovation.  You can learn more about CogniStreamer here http://bit.ly/ac3x60
.  Ron manages The Idea Management Group
on LinkedIn (JoinHere).

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