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I just read the “from the editor” page in the current (January/February 2008) MIT Technology Review, by Jason Pontin—and enjoyed it. He began by discussing the so-called “innovation economy,” went on to offer a selection of definitions for the I-word, (from The Economist and Richard Lyons, chief learning officer at Goldman Sachs)—and, as we’ve also done—criticized these definitions for their slight whiffs of management-consulting-speak. The consensus, it seems, including Pontin’s definition — which includes what the I-word is NOT (not invention, not scientific discovery) — is that innovation must create value. (Pontin writes that “Innovation disrupts our existing way of doing business or creates entirely new ways of doing things.”)
He goes on to suggest that “innovation seems to be more the product of culture and methodology. The culture of innovation tolerates failure and smiles upon creativity. But such a culture is not enough in itself; successful inovation also pitilessly rejects bad ideas when their promise has been exhausted and efficiently executes the development and commercialization of the best ideas.”
I enjoyed reading Pontin’s essay, and appreciated his consideration of the role that culture plays in the innovation process. And it makes me wonder: how do companies create cultures of innovation? Do they evolve organically, or can they be replicated? It’s not as easy as buying a foosball table. Or providing free massages and food. Is it as simple as redesigning a workplace? Or should companies really focus on the personalities and social networks of their potential hires to build cultures of innovation?
What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.