Big thanks to client Todd who turned me on a to a great article on innovation.
The article does a wonderful job illustrating that no one owns innovation - it's a horizontal, not a vertical process. One where innovations must travel across organizational boundaries to find purpose and become reality.
There are three major players in the innovation process: those involved in an open-ended search for knowledge (e.g., found in universities and some great R&D labs), those facing needs and serious constraints (e.g., start ups, front line knowledge workers), and those with the discipline and resources to define and scale products that have broad-based appeal (e.g., vendors and IT organizations.)
Innovation is a messy little soup where the magic happens as the different players interact. There is no simple recipe, but key ingredients include employees who understand the needs of marketplace, are exposed to the outside world, and work within a culture that nurtures creativity within a disciplined process of iteration, prototyping, and pruning.
The fact that no one owns innovation means that everyone should. This presents an enormous challenge for companies with bloated project agendas, over-burdened employees, and overzealous bosses. Google's "20% time" is a boundary rule targeted at keeping these toxic ingredients at bay.
What is your company doing to foster innovation?