The Art of Innovation – Part 2: Company Mindset

In The Art of Innovation, IDEO’s founder Tom Kelley writes his lessons in creativity from years of success through innovation. In this three-part series, I will take you through key takeaways from the book. This second part is about how IDEO helps companies to adapt their mindset to become more innovative.

Step 1 – Know the Future

Innovation happens by looking at what isn’t there —Jake Burton

Know the soon to be state of the art. Each industry has places where you make connections and hear about the latest products. No one gets ahead copying products that are already established.

Asking child-like questions of “Why?” and “Why not?” helps to prevent assumptions interfering when evaluating an opportunity. Learn from the people who break the rules, perhaps adapting an existing product to a new use-case. Watch people struggle with existing products in new environments.

Step 2 – Hire Great People

Pro-actively hire the intellectually curious. If you hire the right people, everything else will take care of itself.

People perform when they feel special and sometimes the best inspiration is not doing work. Everyone has a creative side but it requires training like any skill. The person who tails endlessly at his desk is unlikely to be the one hatching a great innovation.

When you are stuck on a tough decision or have a problem that you do not understand, talk to all the smart people who you know.

Step 3 – Office Environment

The best offices celebrate teamwork and a high people density makes the office pulse. Make desks movable and group project members together so that space is just for teamwork and not owned by a person or group.

Provide good food and encourage play to have constant off-site energy. There should be no need for a physical off-site because creativity should flow in the office. The workspace should communicate positivity to both employees and visitors.

Step 4 – Dropping Internal Barriers

The biggest barrier to innovation is company mindset. Senior managers must encourage employees to break rules and fail forward so that change is part of the culture.

Success has a tendency to cripple future product development. Sticking with an existing product range is safer but loses in the long run. Instead, build products fast and leapfrog other companies in the market.

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