Creativity & Innovation Part 1 | Design Implications

Part One

by John Scott

The setting: A corporate conference room

“Now that we’re all here, it’s been brought to our attention from senior leadership that we need to be more innovative. Therefore, we need an innovation lab. To be innovative.”

Sound familiar?

One of the common design Yetis (trends, myths, exotic beasts, etc.) that many companies seem to be chasing these days is the decision to build and/or reallocate an existing space to become their new “innovation lab,” without considering the “why” and the “how” of innovation.

The “Why” of Innovation

Another important question that should be discussed in the discovery phase is the why. Why do we need to innovate, or be innovative? Simple – to survive. This question might be easier to answer than the others, as history has proven that the most innovative companies continue to thrive – while those that remain stagnant to change slowly become irrelevant or obsolete. Consider this: Fortune 500 first developed their list of the 500 most innovative companies in 1955, and each year update that list (ranked by total revenues). What is most surprising (or not) is that as of 2017, only 60 of the original 500 companies remain on Fortune 500’s list (that’s 12%).  What happened to the 88% of companies from 1955?  They failed to innovate or were surpassed (or were acquired) by those that recognized the importance of innovation and discovered how to innovate effectively.

The “How” of Innovation
Most companies (and individuals) recognize certain companies as being more innovative than others (Google is usually an easily identifiable innovative company), but what is not considered or recognized is that all companies (and more importantly, all organizational cultures) can be innovative. Some cultures pursue breakthrough innovation through open systems and a wide array of experiments to see what new opportunities emerge. Other cultures pursue incremental innovation – taking something that exists and modifying it to make it better. Some cultures make innovation happen through human relations, while others focus on the rational pursuit of goals. 

Understanding the “why” and the “how” of innovation can help an organization build the right team in order to pursue these new results. In an ideal world, an innovative team would be made up of each organizational culture (Collaborate, Compete, Control, and Create). 

For a deeper dive into the actual design implications of creativity and innovation, check out Creativity & Innovation | Part Two