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Hacking Innovation: A Starter Kit.

I’ve been fortunate to know and work with many successful innovators and innovation facilitators. I make this distinction not because they are mutually exclusive, but because each focus plays a critical role in understanding, codifying and teaching innovation.

Over the years, I collaborated with one of many creators of the SIM card, helped bring to market the first free trial of web service in the U.S. for Citibank, and worked on projects evolving the semantic and synaptic web.

I have also collaborated with leading innovation facilitators including Gerald Haman of Solution People, Larry Keeley of Doblin, Saul Kaplan of the Business Innovation Factory, Tom Monahan of Before & After, and Dana Montenegro of Red Bull and Seriously Creative.

Collectively, these thought leaders have had to grapple with conveying a definition of innovation – a word that is so overused as to be rendered meaningless.

In his provocative book, The Myths of Innovation, Scott Berkun writes “I need to say one last thing about innovation. It is not a word I am fond of.  It’s used too often today, and it has lost any significance. More useful to you, perhaps, is that of its many meanings you’ll find in the dictionary, the potent is significant positive change.”

Contrast this with Larry Keeley’s (with Ryan Pikkel, Brian Quinn, and Helen Walters) definition in the seminal Ten Types of Innovation, “ Innovation is the creation of viable new offering.”  The subtitle is equally instructive, “the discipline of building breakthroughs.”

There is always a challenge in the commercialization of innovation thought leadership and practice because of the varying sophistication of the audience. 

For example, experienced product innovators are very familiar with methodologies like TRIZ – a Russian acronym for the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving developed by G.S. Altshuller and his colleagues. (It was the result of an analysis of three million patents looking for patterns that predict breakthrough solutions.)

On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who are asked to participate in ideation without any prior experience or exposure to any of the hundreds of techniques in the innovator's toolbox.

Can you really hack innovation and distill it into bite-sized gems of knowledge?


 One of my favorite business writers, Mike Myatt, has offered up a great definition of what I call ethical hacking.  “Hacking – the present participle of hack (verb) to discover an alternate path, clever and skillful tricks, shortcuts and workarounds, breaking the code, deciphering complexity, influencing outcomes, acquiring access, creating innovative customizations to existing or outdated methodologies.

So in the next few weeks I will offer some hacks that will help you gain perspective on innovation and ways to integrate innovative thinking into your life and business.



If you want to get a head start, get your hands and your mind on:

Ten Types of Innovation

The Myths of Innovation      

The Art of Innovation


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Reader Comments (1)

Scott Berkun's definition sounds like the most accurate to me, it's quite true that the more we read, speak and head about innovation, the more we need to re-define it, for it constantly evolves.

March 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterExplee-Animated video

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