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BEI Keynote: John Kao, Bringing Innovation to Innovation

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Bringing Innovation to Innovation
a keynote by John Kao, BEI 2014, Las Vegas

2.6 billion google queries were on "innovation" last month, Kao posits. The issue, there is no shared definition, or mental map, of Innovation. We are creating a tower of babel effect.
There is:

  1. large-scale innovation
  2. digital innovation
  3. open innovation
  4. user centered innovation
  5. indigenous innovation
  6. sustainability innovation
  7. - 30. ... 300. yadda, yadda

 At the same time, innovation models are evolving.

It's complicated. Innovation resides in individuals, groups, enterprises, and national economies. So, how do you make what is complex simple?

Plant. Grow. Harvest.
You have three schools: corporate innovation, design thinking, and entrepreneurship. These are three distinct disciplines, he says to set the stage. Kao thinks of it as plant, grow, and harvest to simplify the muddy mix.

But, if innovation were a movie, we are only into the first five minutes of it.

As they disciplines become formal professions, they will seek to codify, but, wait! "Innovation is not a discipline, it is not a profession--it is a movement." 

Here is a proposed framework for discussing innovation:

  1. Define: Innovation is a capability, not a wish.
    • Innovation refers to a set of capabilities that enable the continuous realization of a desired future.
    • What are the capabilities? (Kao presented an exhaustive list with such skills as tech transfer, ideation, empathy, many others.)
    • Capabilities are developed through practice, by doing consistently. 
  2. Metrics: One you have definition and capabilities, then, and only then, can you develop a set of metrics. 
  3. Stewardship models: Who is responsible? Who will work on the strategy, the process, the projects? What are the expectations? 
  4. Learning models. How do we learn by doing? How do we figure it all out? How do we expose our team to the real practice of innovation? 
  5. Organization: How do we organization these efforts inside our specific organizations?
  6. Keeping Insights Local: Innovations are ultimately experiments that solve a problem for real people. Start in your own backyard, then see if it scales. 
  7. Innovation as Diversity: Take the local insights and prototypes and get the widest feedback possible. Crowd source. Take other markets, other audiences, others countries. Show it to kids and teenagers. Get diverse points of view and see through their eyes. 

We are only five minutes into the movie, Kao says as he wraps up, let's start by teaching teenagers collaboration and creativity skills--what a world that may create.  Hope this framework helps your thinking about Innovation.

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