Top Innovation Secrets

Being successful at innovation is a skill. One that takes time, patience, strategic intelligence and amongst other things, funding. Many organisations succeed only after they have experienced embarrassing failures and learnt some tough lessons in the process. How do others succeed with their innovation efforts? What is the secret? In this article we use the inspiring philosophy of Steve Jobs as stimulus and ask innovation managers about their “secret sauce for innovation success”. Learning from others reduce risk because resurrecting the organisational “innovation corpse” is not an action anyone should be tasked with.

Talking about “top innovation secrets” might be a bit arrogant. It is not that simple. Innovation needs to be considered in different environments and holistic ecosystems. It involves the entire organisation and a myriad of nuances.

Innovation is a popular topic of discussion and many organisations think of themselves as innovative or progressive. The taste of the pudding is still in the eating. Planning is one thing, delivering consistent results, however, is another.

Similar to other management practises, innovation management is an ever evolving discipline.

Similar to other management practises, innovation management is an ever evolving discipline. What we believed worked yesterday, might not be effective tomorrow. This rings true on the topic of strategic planning for innovation, business model innovation, appropriate reward mechanisms, innovation systems and implementation, to name but a few.

While we are putting in place the processes, structures and strategic policies to guide innovation outcomes, do we ponder the power of thinking big, reaching out or fulfilling a known or even unknown market need? Do we involve our own innovation ecosystem, consider open or semi-open innovation models or think about collaborating with SMEs?

Innovation is about strategizing, guiding and empowerment of staff but is also about co-creation, being different in your approach and about sustaining momentum.

Steve’s secret sauce for innovation success

Like Frank Sinatra, everyone has “their way” of doing things and so does world entrepreneurial legend Steve Jobs. Something that Carmine Gallo, in a new book entitled: The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, outlines as “insanely different principles for breakthrough success.” When these principles are considered one cannot help but notice words like “passion, magic, dreams, simplicity, decisiveness and great customer experience”.

Steve’s 8 principles are almost universal truths. Use it as background information and think about “your way” of addressing innovation going forward.

Steve’s innovation principles:

  1. Do what you love, innovation does not happen in the absence of passion. Passion occupies the mind and soul. It provides the fuel for persistence and perseverance.

  2. Put a dent in the universe – think differently about your vision and attract like-minded people to create magic for your organisation.

  3. Kick start your brain and stretch it to its “outer limits” – be creative. The same old thinking about the same old problems is not going to gear your organisation towards future success. The world we will work in ten years from now probably will sound like a fiction movie today. Silo mentalities and group think will not get you there. Collaborate and find the outer limits!

  4. Sell dreams, not products. Help people fulfil their dreams by providing products, services and experiences that make dreams come true.

  5. Say no to a 1000 things. According to Steve the answer lies in simplicity. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. This in my opinion can also refer to saying no to pet projects, trying to be everything to everybody and losing focus. Know what you want to achieve and how you want to get there. You cannot run a marathon without knowing the ultimate destination.

  6. Create insanely great experiences, linking back to point four made above.

  7. Master the message. In other words, be a corporate storyteller. If you cannot get people excited about your idea – the idea does not matter

  8. See yourself (and your organisation) as the brand. How staff acts reflects upon the brand. Most importantly, how you think as an organisation and entrepreneur will have the greatest impact on the creation of new ideas that will grow your business and improve the lives of your customers.

The secret sauce of innovation success for organisations

The “Steve-themes” provide valuable pointers that every innovation-hungry entrepreneur or business person can apply, whether you are a Steve admirer or not. So, from inspirational individual to the organisational context. What do other organisations put in place or focus on, to enable innovation success? What do organisations consider “top innovation secrets”?

When I had the opportunity to speak at a recent innovation conference, I posed the exact question to the audience and this was their response:

  1. Paint a clear picture – know what you want and set clear goals to get there. Innovation needs a purpose.

  2. Create real value – ensure that your efforts address a real need.

Allow for creativity, make it happen and expect it from people.

  1. Create an enabling environment. No-one can go at it alone. Allow for creativity, make it happen and expect it from people.

  2. Collaborate, lobby, empower, create the right structures and fund winning initiatives.

  3. Identify the good ideas – Use a powerful, clear and effective process to filter ideas and identify the good ones for implementation.

  4. Involve people, encourage teamwork and recognise efforts.

  5. Establish ownership. Innovation needs to be someone’s responsibility for it to be effectively managed and sustained.

These points do not represent a complete list, many more can be added. It is interesting though to note overlaps in the conference delegates’ responses and the themes of Steve Jobs. Whether we talk innovation or entrepreneurship, every idea starts somewhere. The power of passion, simplicity and “insanely great experiences” for customers cannot be underestimated.

Start somewhere, today

The reality is, innovation is not a nice to have activity. It is crucial. What you sow is what you reap. Of course innovation and entrepreneurial success will not be possible without leadership and determination. Determination should perhaps be written in capital letters. It is going to get tough. Changing a business model and diverging from the way we have always done it is often easier said than done.

The reality is, innovation is not a nice to have activity. It is crucial. What you sow is what you reap.

It requires hard work and persistence. It requires trust and transparency and a non-negotiable will to make it happen. It demands action. Yes, action and learning. We often talk about what should be done, deliberate for months on how to do it and then scuffle to find the right person or team to make it happen. Not everything will be perfect from the beginning – but start somewhere. Learn by doing.


Use online learning programs to make you more innovative

Today innovation is no longer a “nice to have” it´s a “must have” if your organization is going to be able to stay ahead in the increasing competition. This is something every CEO will agree with. But how to increase you innovation capabilities? The good news is that this is a skill that can be learned, just like any other discipline.


A common misconception today is that innovators are innately creative people and that this is something that you either have or not. More specifically, many people tend to think that innovators are actually born with intuitive skills and views of the world that are different from the rest of the population. However – this is simply not true. Innovators aren’t born, they’re made with the help of training and education. So the really goods news is that you can both encourage and develop innovation skills in yourself and in your team through online learning innovation programs. Important ingredients creating an environment, which allows and encourage questioning, where you can see failures as a good sign and never stop trying.

Some of the words greatest authorities on innovation; professors Clayton Christensen, Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen, have partnered with online education leader Apollo Group and created a breakthrough online learning experience to help organizations build and sustain their competitive advantage. The content is delivered digitally and it´s a great solution for companies who don’t have the resources to spend on expensive travel, accommodation etc.

The team behind Innovator’s Accelerator

Each of the teachers who lead Innovator’s Accelerator has decades of classroom teaching experience at some of the world’s most prestigious universities—Harvard, Wharton, INSEAD—and have sparked innovation management in some of the globe’s most powerful companies:

Clayton M.Christensen (DBA, Harvard Business School) is the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and is the founder of Innosight. Regarded as one of the world’sforemost experts on innovation and growth, he is the best-selling and award-winning author of eight books, including The New York Times bestseller The Innovator’s Dilemma. His research has transformed startups, Fortune 500 companies and national economics.

Jeff Dyer (PhD, UCLA) is the Horace Beesley Professor of Strategy at Brigham Young University. He is the co-author of The Innovator’s DNA, and his book, Collaborative Advantage, won the Shingo Prize Research Award. Dyer regularly consults and speaks on innovation and strategy and his research has been featured in publications such as Forbes, The Economist, Fortune, BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal. He previously taught at The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania and was manager at consultancy Bain & Company.

Hal Gregersen (PhD, University of California, Irvine) is the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank Chaired Professor of Innovation and Leadership at INSEAD. His trilogy of books, The Innovator’s DNA, Leading Strategic Change and Global Explorers, reflects a lifelong commitment to developing leaders who make a difference. He regularly delivers inspirational keynote speeches on innovation and change throughout the world and is founder of the 4.24 project, dedicated to rekindling the provocative power of asking the right questions of adults to ultimately cultivate and sharpen the curiosity of the world’s children.

Learn how to become more innovative with Innovator’s Accelerator

Innovator’s Accelerator is an online learning experience led by the world’s leading experts on business innovation: Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School, Jeff Dyer of Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management and Hal Gregersen of INSEAD. The trio of thought leaders, who also co-authored “The Innovator’s DNA” and consult with businesses around the world on disruptive innovation, bring together research and tools that help business leaders transform into innovators, ready to be the catalyst for change in their organizations.

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that employees continuously innovate for their organizations, despite the increasing time constraints. Innovator’s Accelerator is now available in a condensed 12-hour format, IA, as well as an immersive 30-hour version, IAx.

– Learners today expect more than video lectures with general knowledge. They want interesting, engaging and socially interactive educational content that ties directly to skills they can apply to their jobs,” said George Lichter, head of innovation programming at Apollo Lightspeed, the company which launched Innovator’s Accelerator in January 2013.

“Employers want learning products that their managers can access 24/7 from multiple devices, and that help them solve the real-world challenges facing their organizations today. We are continually improving our products to provide highly engaging online learning experiences, capable of being company-customized, to measure learners’ progress with data analytics tools, and to drive toward the foundational principle underneath IA: that any employee can become an innovator.”

Innovator’s Accelerator Product Details
IAx consists of 30 hours of learning over seven weeks, including 19 in-depth lessons featuring video lectures from Christensen, Dyer and Gregersen; success stories and case studies from top-level executives and thought leaders; and practice-based activities that allow participants to apply key concepts and develop innovation skills. Specialized for intra-organization and geographically dispersed teams, the highly interactive experience also includes an instructor, dedicated client support and a company-directed project designed to address an organization’s specific innovation needs, and is available for private or mixed-company cohorts.

IA is a condensed, powerful experience designed for companies and individuals seeking a concentrated, in-depth innovation learning experience. The 12-hour, four-week version includes 12 self-paced lessons featuring core innovation video lectures, case studies and an Action Plan that provides an immediate opportunity to apply learned skills. An optional, company-specific, private environment, which allows employees to interact and discuss specific business issues, is also available for larger groups.

Innovator’s Accelerator Online Learning Experience
The Innovator’s Accelerator online learning experience, co-designed with award-winning design and innovation firm IDEO, differentiates itself from traditional online offerings by surfacing dynamic content in a highly engaging, interactive and social environment that maps to how people work and learn today. The modular content can be consumed on any device through a simple web browser and it includes proprietary metrics, such as the Skill Tracker, which monitors personal development of the five innovation skills, and helps participants get instant, measurable feedback on progress and success. Self-paced lesson plans coupled with virtual team learning and interaction helps emerging leaders efficiently build innovation skills, while providing organizations with transparent talent development.