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III. Context - The Environment of the GoInnovate! System
16. Context Overview 109
17. People 113
18. Structure 123
19. Process 129
20. Technology 135
Epilogue: Making Innovation A Way of Life 139
About the Author 153
Every significant breakthrough in the history of man has been the result
of innovation. Nothing proceeds without it. From counting on our fingers to
the abacus to the calculator and the computer, all movement forward has
been the result of innovation.
From the first cavemen to space explorers, our survival and progress as
human beings has depended on it.
And today, more than ever, business and government leaders at all
levels are facing a serious dilemma—the challenge of doing more with the
same or fewer resources, and there's no relief in sight! The best solution is
to increase productivity through innovation.
I have studied many successful innovators-individuals, teams and
organizations—to discover what they do that allows them to move ahead
while other would—be innovators flounder. The GoInnovate! System is the
culmination of my twenty-five years working with these groups to expand
their capability to innovate swiftly, continually and effectively. As you learn
and apply the GoInnovate! System, you too will increase your performance,
influence and success at work and throughout life.
Most of the books written on innovation discuss theory and concepts
at length, shortchanging the practical, “how-to” questions. GoInnovate!
provides you with the principles, practices and tools to successfully innovate
over and over again. This book is for executives who support innovation
efforts, front line managers and leaders who pilot innovation teams as well
as anyone else in the organization with a commitment to innovation.
Your unique background and experience will serve as a valuable
resource in your learning. Tap into that experience and the GoInnovate!
System will take on greater personal meaning and value. In the process, you
will likely transform the way you view the world, your organization, the
people around you and most importantly, your own capacity to innovate.
I welcome you to the wonders of innovation.
Author of the GoInnovate! System
P R E F A C E
Adhesives, baseballs, chocolate bars, dynamite, elastic, fishing rods,
graham crackers, helicopters, Internet, Jell-O®, Kitty Litter®,
lunch boxes, motion pictures, neckties, onion rings,
the printing press, Q-Tips®, roller coasters, sunglasses,
traffic lights, umbrellas, watches, x-rays, yogurt, and zippers.
What do all of these items have in common? These innovations
came into being because someone had a creative idea. However, innovation
is not the same as creativity. As important as ideas are, they are just one
aspect of true innovation.
Even though innovation is understood by many to be the key to
improving processes, eliminating waste, improving productivity and increas-
ing employee satisfaction, few organizations have a system for achieving
consistent results through innovation. While there are systems for all the
other important functions—financial, marketing, manufacturing, customer
service—there is none for innovation. Yet it holds the key to improving all
the activities in the organization.
People fuel innovation. But merely sending a dictate telling employ-
ees to be more creative and innovative doesn’t work. They need a system to
help them do it—swiftly and effectively. The GoInnovate! System provides
people with tools to guide them step-by-step through the innovation process.
It will guide people in “how to think” differently about themselves, their
teams and the organization. GoInnovate! will help them to think outside the
normal boundaries and draw upon their own and each other’s creativity.
Innovation is often misunderstood, but it can be understood. The
approach detailed in these pages demystifies innovation by breaking it down
into understandable, logical components and then showing how it works as a
system. The GoInnovate! System stimulates people not only to accept change
I N T R O D U C T I O N
but to be a part of it, thus opening the door for innovation to take place
throughout the organization. People want to be productive. They thrive in a
system that proactively supports them doing just that.
The GoInnovate! System works in any organization. It does not
replace management philosophy, policy or procedures currently in place. It
will compliment your current structure and mode of operation and enhance
the value you receive from current initiatives and processes. You and your
people have spent too much time and money learning those processes.
The power of GoInnovate! is that it utilizes everything your organi-
zation already knows and does well and enhances it, helping to direct and
focus those skills on innovation and doing it swiftly, continually and
effectively. GoInnovate! will strengthen your existing systems while at the
same time expose weak areas and give you tools for improvement.
The effect of GoInnovate! when used completely and continually,
is that the functionality of your organization will be vastly improved and
people will be re-energized about their work and their interactions
Yet, GoInnovate! is much more than a system for innovation. It is a
“framework for thinking” and making decisions of every magnitude—small
or large in your organization. Its benefits extend beyond the innovation effort
to positively impact people’s work on today’s business, serving today’s
customers. The result: substantial performance improvements and the abili-
ty to accomplish more with the resources you have.
We appreciate those who have chosen to work with us by bringing the
GoInnovate! System into their businesses. GoInnovate! Global clients
include: Intel, United States Air Force, Groupo Kimex, Estée Lauder,
University of Texas, United States Postal Service, Singapore Police Force,
SaskTel, SBC, City of London, Nordstrom, Hewlett Packard, Chevron, and
numerous other organizations interested in increasing their capability to
innovate—to generate wealth—in today’s economy.
I am also deeply grateful to all my colleagues, employees and friends
who have provided direction and encouragement along the way. A special
thanks goes out to Lee Berglund who was my partner early on, Rudy Platzer
for spurring me on to write the book and reviewing it in detail, Pat Kaufman
for her expert guidance, Steven Haines for his help in exposing GoInnovate!
to a wider audience, and Erin Thomas for being my editor and bringing it all
together in the end. My wife, Mary Ann, has provided me unconditional sup-
port and practical advice from the beginning of GoInnovate! in 1980. I ded-
icate the book to my son, Alexander, who is my inspiration.
Now, the future is before you…GoInnovate!
F O U R
Principles are the foundation of the
GoInnovate! System and remain true
regardless of changing conditions.
Understanding the value of
innovation and the need to create a
self-innovating organization is just
the beginning. Learning how to use a
system of innovation will create that
kind of organization. Three guiding
principles underlie the GoInnovate!
System of rapid and continual innova-
tion and give it its foundation.
Principles are universal laws
that govern our lives. Like gravity, principles are true regardless of the cir-
cumstances or conditions.
We do not learn
principles; rather we
unlearn beliefs that
Organizations are extremely complex systems. Rigid rules will not
address the intricacy present during the innovation process. When the
variables are few, control is possible and rules can apply. But when the
variables are many and uncertainty is widespread, principles can direct deci-
sions and guide behaviors. Learning and applying the GoInnovate! Principles
will allow you to work successfully within the high levels of intricacy and
uncertainty that are inherent in almost any innovation.
The GoInnovate! Principles underlie and transcend the practices and
tools contained in the three Components of the System - Generators, Cycle
and Context, which will be discussed in subsequent chapters. Each of the
Principles has major implications for how we go about innovating and are
invaluable guides for bringing about swift and continual innovation.
Primary Principle #1: Everything Is Connected To Everything
All parts of the universe are linked together and interchange their
influences. As David Bohm, a physicist and contemporary of Einstein, once
stated, “We are all one…. Everything is connected to everything else. We are
not sure how this connectedness works, but there is a certainty that there is
'separation without separateness.’”
Quantum physicists like Bohm see all matter as being connected and in
motion. There is an "implicate order" that we can neither see nor sense in any
way. We as humans are part of this “wholeness” that is continually unfold-
ing. Thus everything in the universe affects everything else, because all are
parts of the same unbroken whole.
Australian physicist Paul Davies, Ph.D., explains it this way, “To the
naive realist the universe is a collection of objects. To the quantum
physicist it is an inseparable web of vibrating energy patterns in which no
one component has reality independent of the entirety; and included in that
entirety is the observer.”
All of our conditioning causes us to see the world as fragmented, as
made up of separate “things.” We tend to break everything into bits, like
departments, nations and professions and then we continually try to connect
these “things” back together again. Rather than “thing-ness,” we need to
learn to see the world in terms of related parts of a whole.
You might doubt that everything in the universe is connected, but in a
more pragmatic sense, we think you will agree that everything in an organi-
zation is connected. By looking at the organization as a system in which
everything is interrelated, we see how all the processes, people, structures,
communications, and changes affect one another. In order for the
GoInnovate! System of innovation to be successful, we must maintain an
overview of all these related parts throughout the main portion of the
GoInnovate! System called the Cycle.
In recent GoInnovate! Academies we asked participants to identify how
things might be different in their organizations if everyone believed and lived
this First Principle that Everything is Connected.
Some of their responses:
• Communication would improve.
• Ownership of problems would be expanded.
• People would be more helpful, kind and considerate.
• Individuals would have greater interest in their work and in the
work of others.
• Costly mistakes would be avoided more often.
As important as interconnectedness is, we see many examples in
business where this truth is ignored:
marketing departments that oversell
production capability, research and
development departments working
without first consulting with
marketing, and planning departments
that don't walk in lock step with
finance and other departments. And
the list goes on. These actions result
in products that are too expensive to
produce, or worse, don't even meet
With every innovation we con-
sider, we should ask, "What affect
will this change have on other parts of the organization?" This should be the
first acid test for every innovation, large or small and in every walk of life.
An automated order processing system creates a backlog in the shipping
department. A new product's design is difficult to package and ship. A new
market is developed which requires different distribution strategies. Such
considerations must be recognized and acted upon from the outset to avoid
unnecessary confusion, waste and stress.
Primary Principle #2: Thought is Generative
The greatest discovery of all time…thought creates! Thought is causal.
Thought is the originator of everything that is brought into existence, the
starting point of every new innovation. This is a profound fact and a demon-
Thinking causes things to happen. Action, the movement of energy,
flows from thoughts. Conditions are the effect of thinking. Thus new
thoughts create new conditions.
With every innovation,
we must ask, "How
will this change
affect other parts of
As Paramahansa Yogananda said, "Mind is the architect of the
microcosm and the macrocosm. As water by cooling and condensating
becomes ice, so thought by condensation assumes physical form. Everything
in the universe is thought in material form."
Our patterns of thought can hold
us captive. Thought creates the world
around us and then says, "I didn't do
it." Physicist David Bohm talked
about a "generative order" in which,
depending on our state of conscious-
ness, we "participate in how reality
unfolds." Thought has developed in
such a way that it claims not to affect
anything but rather relates to us
what is real, what is true. But this
is not true. Ideas and our thoughts
create our conditions.
Consequently, organizations are in large part shaped by the way people
think and interact. To make organizations more innovative, we must change
how people think and interact.
Understanding that "Thought is Generative" is vital to innovating swift-
ly, effectively and continually. The primary obstacles to innovation lie in our
most basic ways of thinking. If these do not change, any "new input" will end
up producing fundamentally the same results. So we must examine our
thinking and thought processes from a personal, team and organizational
perspective. What is our approach to solving problems, what are our basic
beliefs about ourselves, our work, our competitors, our ability to effect
change? Realizing that thought is generative can free our thoughts and
consequently our actions.
Do you want to earn more money? Of course! But money is only a
medium of exchange for ideas, goods and services. We provide ideas, goods
and services for money. If we want more money, then does it not make sense
to look for the source from which all ideas, goods and services originate?
Imagination, ideas, our thoughts are the sources of all innovation, goods
and services. So if we want more money, we must improve the quantity,
quality and organization of our thinking. The major problem with most of us
is that we most often think about WHAT we think, rarely HOW we think.
The problem is behind us, not in front of us. Many of our old thoughts
and perceptions continue to affect our actions even though we are no longer
consciously aware of them. By changing our thoughts, we release ourselves
from the past.
We asked our GoInnovate! Academy participants to identify how things
To make our
innovative, we must
change how people
think and interact.
would be different in their organizations if everyone believed and lived this
Second Principle that Thought Is Generative.
Some of their responses:
• There would be less redoing, more thinking up front.
• There would be physical spaces that enhanced thinking.
• People would spend more time on 'how' they are thinking not only
'what' they are thinking.
• We would do more listening and less judging of others.
Primary Principle #3: Everyone is Creative and Innovative
Many of us find it difficult to embrace the principle that says,
“Everyone is Creative and Innovative.” Society seems determined to “train
the creativity out of us”. We are
taught in the rigid and unimaginative
learning environments found in most
schools as well as being subjected to
the criticism and judgment of our
parents, teachers and peers (often
unintentional). Is it any wonder that
by the time we reach adulthood, most
of us believe and manifest the belief
that we are not creative and innova-
tive? But the truth is that everyone is
When initiating or participating
in an innovative process, we must
recognize everyone's innate creative ability. Anyone can come up with a
good idea, a great idea, or an idea that is valuable to the end result we are
seeking. We have students in our GoInnovate! Academies who are fervently
convinced that they are not creative. We watch them participate in some of
our exercises and prove themselves wrong. As they absorb and practice the
material, their innate creativity begins to flow. It is always an interesting and
gratifying phenomenon to experience.
It was once thought that creativity and innovation existed only in the
research and development or technology departments, or “at the top” of the
organization. In fact, it has always been associated with the people who
know the most on a subject.
In truth, creativity and innovation is not limited to a chosen few. It is
not based on one’s intelligence, and it can be learned and cultivated through
our own efforts and the proper environment in the workplace.
Recently, a group of psychologists determined that out of people over
45 years of age less than 5% are creative. At ages 40, 35, 30, 25 and 20, the
innovative Cycle, we
percentage was the same—5%. At age 17, the number jumped to 10%. At
age 5, however, it was 90%. This shows that we all have creative potential
within us, it has just been suppressed, or “trained out of us”. We are all
In recent GoInnovate! Academies we asked participants to identify how
things would be different in their organizations if everyone believed and
lived this Third Principle that Everyone is Creative and Innovative.
Some of their responses:
• People would share their thoughts more openly.
• People's ideas would be "explored" rather than shot down.
• The whole environment would be more inclusive.
• More ideas would be sought from "outsiders".
• Radical thinkers would be welcomed.
• The three Primary Principles of GoInnovate! provide the foundation
for the GoInnovate! System and are woven throughout the process.
• Principle #1: Everything is Connected to Everything
• Principle #2: Thought is Generative
• Principle #3: Everyone is Creative and Innovative
"If you hear a voice within saying, 'you are not an innovator,'
then by all means, boy, innovate and that voice will be silenced."
~ Vincent Van Gogh
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