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Cultivating Innovation Experts & General Innovation Skills


In a comment posted to our write-up on Systematic Inventive Problem Solving earlier this week, a question was posed relative to suggestions for getting all of the various problem solving tools and methods into “one head”.

paper chainFirst, it’s important to recognize that innovation skills will not be uniformly distributed across the organization.  This makes perfect sense: different innovation workers have different roles to play in the organization.  From intellectual property analyst to product strategist to design engineer to quality assurance engineer, each of these disparate functions have unique skills sets and contributions to the overall innovation process.

Likewise, different innovation workers use different innovation tools and methods to accomplish their innovation tasks. Very few innovation workers will be skilled across all inventive problem solving  techniques and methodologies (i.e. building root cause models, working in FMEA worksheets, following a Value Engineering or Value Analysis job plan, etc.).

And, while innovation software that facilitates innovation methods and integrates these methods with precise access to relevant technical content helps make every innovation worker a more skilled problem solver, the reality is: only a few “heads” will be fully versed in the full spectrum of problem solving and methodologies.

Thus, it is important organizations leverage their most skilled innovation practitioners and leaders to help knowledge workers bridge the gap between personal innovation skill level and problem solving skill need.  What’s required is an organizational structure to maintain and optimize the leverage of an innovation mentoring and facilitation network.

Companies must build wide spread general innovation competence that is complemented by a horizontal team of innovation experts. Knowledge workers should be enfranchised in the innovation agenda and trained in the fundamentals of innovation including basic skills of problem analysis, solution identification, and concept validation.  Innovation experts should be cultivated as highly leveraged corporate resources, tasked with leading others through the more intricate processes of innovation that are less frequently traveled as well as cultivating general innovation skills by working with other knowledge workers to help make the entire organization more effective.

By dispersing innovation and problem solving skills and tools throughout the enterprise while at the same time cultivating innovation experts within groups, organizations can make innovation a sustainable engine for value creation.