Monday, November 30, 2009

Can you innovate from your comfort zone?

Is it possible to innovate from your comfort zone? This was the question I was thinking over this weekend. I had just watched a movie which had a typical “rags to riches” story and the hero in the end made a statement or an observation that he did not think he could have achieved all of this if not for the initial hardships that he faced. That set me thinking. Isn’t that genuinely true for any major innovation of our times? Or of companies which were responsible for those innovations? So what do you think? I think it is really very difficult to innovate from your comfort zone.

Now – I must clarify that I am not talking of incremental innovation but of the truly blue sky or path-breaking innovation. It is really difficult to forget your status quo and truly innovate. It is much simpler and convenient to make slight changes in your established product or offering and tout that as innovation. There is nothing wrong in this approach except that it is not fulfilling. It is like half stretching an elastic band and feeling satisfied.

So – is there a way out?

Frankly the best approach is to get some outsiders to have a look at your problem and your world. This is the quickest and the best way to get new ideas and shake people out from their comfort zones. Traditionally companies have been doing this by bringing in consultants to review and make recommendations. While this works to an extent, there is always a danger of not doing it completely. Ideally the best approach is to give the problem in a complete form to either partners or even the outside world and evaluate end to end solutions. These can then be fitted into company specific processes and released to the market with some final tweaking.

Crowdsourcing or Open Innovation is the name given to companies who follow this approach. There are many companies who have achieved good progress by following this.

Try it. It may change the way you approach your problems the next time round.

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