The Rules of Innovation - helping you play your game better

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In the first article of this series, I introduced the concept of innovation as a game, and as a game, there are fundamentals within which all innovations apply. These are rules, play board, artefacts, and three parts - beginning, body, and end. In this second article, we will take a closer look at the rules of innovation.

Use appropriate thinking methodologies

In the beginning part of innovation, you are looking for more ideas, more view points. This is the divergent part of the process and you should be applying more free-flowing thinking methodologies. Depending on the artefacts that you use, you may be developing flash cards, using Post-Its, or you might even be designing posters. All these require you to suspend judgement as you tinker with thoughts. You certainly cannot be critical at this juncture because you would not have enough fodder to feed the next stage.

In the next stage, we will be experimenting with new ideas, we will be exploring through market tests and pilots. At this stage, we should be looking at the situation as though we were an inspector, looking for clues, and forming different pictures and scenarios. We still suspend judgement, making playful connections between and among ideas, to spawn yet more! This is the growth portion of the process, and we must embrace new ideas and protect them against critical thinkers until they have been given a chance to prove themselves.

In the final stage - the end - we now apply appropriate tools to converge on the right thing to do. Here is where you can unleash your critical thinking to come to a decision and take the right actions.

Each of these stages has its appropriate thinking methodologies, and we cannot mix them. That is the rule. The minute you allow this rule to be broken, your innovation game comes to an end; even before it has the chance to start!

Clarify the process

Within each of the three main gaming stages - the beginning, the body and the end - there are a myriad of ways to manouvre. If the course is not mapped out before the start of the game, one can get caught in the maze. As such, it is important to identify the artefacts to use, the course to take, and the outputs for each stage of the game. It we don't know how to play the game, we are wasting precious time and resources.

Information, not assumption

We used to have a saying in the Army, "Don't assume, ensure." And the way we ensure is through the discovery of confirming, and more importantly, disconfirming, information. In this game, it really doesn't matter what you think is right or not. Because we suspend judgement, and look out for information that tell us what track of thinking we are on, we can form a clearer picture of what is, what if, what wows and what works!

No one is wrong

An important rule of innovation is "no one is wrong." While we don't know that they are correct, we certainly cannot say they are not. In this case, anyone can hold the key to complete the game successfully, and we must respect that. Respect, therefore, is an important rule in the innovation game.

There is no rank in the innovation game

Just as no one is wrong, no one is above another in the innovation game. Your ability to do well in a game has nothing to do with your rank, and even the lowest ranking person in the organisation, can well come up with the greatest solution for the business. As such, deference and authority do not belong in the game.

There you are - the rules of the innovation game. Because not everyone plays by the same rules, or remembers them in the thick of things, it would be good practice to print them out, put them up for everyone to see. And before the game is started, discuss how they will be enforced so everyone has a clear idea what to expect. Ultimately, the rules are not there to hinder the process, but to help it move along smoothly!

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