Innovation thought leader Nick Skillicorn recently did a pretty good job summarizing all of the innovation theories. And we noticed that there are a few key similarities between most (or all) of these theories that we think are interesting! Download this infographic to learn more about the 15 Theories of Innovation.

Okay – so I’ll admit right off the bat that I don’t have an answer to this question, but it’s one that we get a lot. It also got us thinking about what the question even means. Are we talking about the outputs of innovation (like product innovation vs. process innovation) or are we talking about innovation methodologies (like LEAN innovation or TRIZ) or are we talking about innovation trends and technologies (like 3D printing or autonomous vehicles)? Or something else entirely? The word encompasses so much… it risks meaning too little sometimes.

The fact of the matter is that whichever one we’re talking about, the list is long with new types, methodologies, and trends being added every day. So the answer is pretty impossible to come by… but – an innovation thought leader, Nick Skillicorn, recently did a pretty good job summarizing all of the innovation theories and we found it very helpful, as it describes a great many approaches to innovation that we find at work in our customer’s communities (sometimes even multiple approaches within the same company). We did notice, however, that there are a few key similarities that we see between most (or all) of these theories that we think are interesting:

Innovation is Collaborative

A lot of these theories are built for a group of people to discuss problems or solutions around a table and map them: from brainstorming to inventing and creating – most of these theories address innovation as a workplace discipline that people will cooperatively approach (even if certain stages are meant for individual work). That means the usual benefits and challenges that go along with collaboration – like force multiplying resources or trying to avoid groupthink. For better or worse, the practice of innovation inside an organization requires more than one great mind at work.

Innovation is a Spectrum

Sometimes we’re talking about disruptive innovation, sometimes we’re talking about micro-innovations, but wherever you are on the innovation spectrum there are a few things that you need to accept: creativity, collaboration (see above), testing, decision making and delivery. But whatever kind of problem you’re trying to solve, it’s good to understand where you are on that spectrum. You don’t need to apply disruptive thinking to incremental improvements and vice versa.

A Good Understanding of the Problem is Necessary

So many of these theories aren’t even about solutions or new ideas so much as developing empathy or getting to a deeper understanding of the problem. After all, Einstein reportedly said that if he had only one hour to solve a problem he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and the remaining five minutes working on the solution. Why? Because if you don’t know what the real need is, you might waste time and effort on something that doesn’t actually address your concern at all. So whether you’re trying to retain employees or improve your NPS score… you need to spend time rooting out the problems to solve first (by the way – neither of those examples I gave are problems to solve, but are instead ways to measure that your solution was successful).

To learn more about Nick Skillicorn’s 15 Theories of Innovation, download our infographic on the subject.

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.



Featured image via Pixabay.