By: Karin Wall
Saul Kaplan, founder and Chief Catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory tells IM about how he is teaming up with passionate innovators to make real and lasting change in education, health care, energy, and entrepreneurship. Read more to find out how.
What is innovation management to you?
Innovation is a better way to deliver value. To me it’s not an innovation until it actually solves a problem or delivers value in the real world. It’s not invention. It’s not ideation. It’s not new technology. We have more inventions, ideas, and new technologies than we know how to absorb and put to work solving problems in the real world. It’s not technology that’s getting in our way. It’s humans and the organizations we live and work in that are both stubbornly resistant to change. Innovation management is about how to get transformational solutions off of the white board and in to the real world. It’s about catalyzing ongoing R&D, not just for new products and services but also for new business models, even those that are disruptive to the current business model. Innovation management is about pedaling the bicycle of today’s business model while simultaneously enabling both incremental improvements to the current model and transformational new models or ways to deliver value. Most organizations never get beyond the incremental to explore and unleash the transformational.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
I believe the goal is to get better faster. In order to get better faster it’s imperative to put yourself directly in as many new knowledge flows as you can. Stay on steep learning curves no matter how uncomfortable. The best knowledge flows are found at the edges and in the grey areas between silos, disciplines, and boundaries. Hang out at the edge. As the Founder and Chief Catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory I get to live at the edge surrounded by and connected to some of the most exciting, passionate, inquisitive, inspiring innovators on the planet. Life is good.
And the most frustrating parts?
I used to get frustrated earlier in my career when I spent a lot of time trying to convince others to innovate. After a lot of years and black and blue marks I learned that proselytizing doesn’t work. If people aren’t wired to innovate and don’t want to change they will not be convinced and will spend all of their energy to resist and lean against change. I stopped trying to convince them. My new approach and what we are doing at BIF is to find the innovators and those that want to change across every imaginable silo and then connecting them together in purposeful ways. By enabling random collisions of unusual suspects and providing innovators with the environment, platforms, and tools to design, prototype and experiment with new approaches, models, and systems I believe together we can change the world.
What’s your next big challenge?
The Business Innovation Factory (BIF) is catalyzing a movement to transform the next decade. This is no time to think small! We believe our vital social systems are broken. We must do better. We believe in transformation not tweaks. Together with a growing community of passionate innovators we are re-imagining the future of education, health care, energy, and entrepreneurship. We hold ourselves accountable for making headway to transform these critical social systems. There is real urgency. A decade is a terrible thing to waste. 87,600 hours to go. What are we waiting for?
Saul Kaplan is the founder and Chief Catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory. He also is the chair of the non-profit’s Board of Directors. Kaplan started BIF in 2005 with a mission to enable collaborative innovation. The non-profit is creating a real world laboratory for innovators to explore and test system level solutions in areas of high social importance including health care, education, and energy independence, and entrepreneurship.
Prior to focusing on business model and system level innovation at the Business Innovation Factory Kaplan served as the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation and as the Executive Counselor to the Governor on Economic and Community Development. Kaplan created Rhode Island’s unique innovation @ scale economic development strategy aimed at increasing the state’s capacity to grow and support an innovation economy, including an effort to turn the state’s compact geography and close knit public and private sector networks into a competitive advantage.