Becoming Innovation Detectives

I firmly believe that the solutions to many (if not all) of our innovation problems are already out there somewhere; it's just that we need to get much better at finding them.

We all know that too much 'reinvention of the wheel' happens within all organisations. But in an ever more connected world, the core innovation skill set is now migrating away from invention capability, and more towards innovation search capabilities.

By way of illustration, take a look at this video below* (it's actually a public service ad but don't let that put you off). It's a nice pun on a similar ad earlier in the series which you may have seen recently at the cinema. 

Did you spot all the changes? If you are like me you didn't even get close. We generally don't spot stuff if we don't focus on it, even if it's right before our eyes. And that's the problem. We are arguably too focussed on our work, projects, sectors to spot what's coming up in the slipstream.

The promise of openinnovation, namely of brighter, faster, cheaper innovation, is now coming of age. It's the organisations who engage pro actively and systematically with others, whether it's customers, suppliers, universities or clients, are beginning to see the returns on investment from this strategy.In other words all innovators and innovative organisations need to become better detectives, and be better able to spot what's happening outside of their immediate focus.

*Thanks to Paul Sloane for the link


  1. Interesting proposition. I agree to a certain extent that some solutions already exist if we look hard enough.
    But complex problems like fiendish crimes are devious beasts – only soluble if you know where to look for clues while avoiding the red herrings and blind alleys.
    Clues in hand the key then is not to jump to obvious conclusions (otherwise the problem would have been solved long before), but to reconfigure the clues to come up with a more creative solution that strikes at the jugular of the problem, not just its kneecaps.

  2. completely agree with this thesis and many current corporate open innovators spend all of their time in search mode. The issue for them is bandwidth. There’s a limit to how many coffees with prospects they can take! One other area for enhanced detective skills is inside the company before you’ve even started the search for new ideas. Exactly what innovations does the firm need, when and why? I have a feeling that too many searches are rather aimless – searching for inspiration rather than specific solutions. In this way open innovation can be more strategic as opposed to a way of enhancing serendipity.

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