Re-Inventing Innovation ‘Inside the Box’

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IEDP (2013) We are continually told that innovation is the key to corporate growth in the modern business environment, but turning the concept of innovation into actual innovative behaviour with concrete results is not a straight-forward task. IEDP’s Roddy Millar spoke to Columbia Business School professors Abrahamson and Goldenberg and colleague Boyd who are tackling the innovation execution gap to provide business leaders with workable strategies to achieve high performance innovation.

To unleash creativity you need to constrain yourself

Jacob Goldenberg describes himself as the lab rat and his colleague Drew Boyd, a former senior Johnson & Johnson marketing executive now at University of Cincinnati as the street rat in their innovation research which has identified that while we are all used to being exhorted to ‘think outside the box’ in fact this is a fundamentally flawed approach to actually inducing innovative ideas.

"To unleash creativity you need to constrain yourself” they say “ask someone to come up with a new fitness device, for example, and it is very difficult for them to gain any traction to invent with; but constrain them by saying it has to be used in a specific location, a car perhaps, then they can start to use some of the intrinsic problems, lack of space, as part of the solution – so the constraints can add energy to the problem solving. People are resourceful, and having constraints forces them to think more deeply; psychologically it is more stimulating” the pair note.

Goldenberg and Boyd have written a book to be published this summer, called "Inside the Box" that details the constraint benefits for creative thinking and sets out the 5 patterns that consistently lead to successful innovation:

1) Subtraction – identify the core components of a product or service and analyse what happens when one is removed and how the product or service can be beneficially used like that.
2) Task Identification – assign additional uses for existing resources (the authors cite the African play-pump, a children’s merry-go-round that also pumps water when used)
3) Click here to read on.

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Daniel Chadwick
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