By Praveen Gupta
In the knowledge age with access to the Internet, a networked individual is the building block of innovation. The individual has access far beyond the obvious network of a few individuals; instead, practically the whole world is the network. Once the network becomes ubiquitous, the individual can innovate with access to laboratories, universities, experts, corporations, or trademark and patent offices. This phenomenon has already begun; however, its full impact is yet to be realized due to the limited understanding of the innovation process. For the innovation process to be repeatable and available for any innovator, from the individual to larger corporations, some standard process must be established.
When people want to learn anything new, they turn to the experts. To learn the innovation process, an individual – and companies – must learn from the best innovators. The processes of inventors Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison to produce knowledge solutions can be used as benchmarks. Einstein helped in understanding the theory of innovation and Edison helped in institutionalizing the methodology of solution development. Interestingly, Einstein did no physical experiments, while Edison had laboratories and the innovation room for developmental experiments. Einstein believed that every innovation is merely a discovery and Edison believed innovation could be produced on demand. When the understanding of the two is combined, innovation becomes the discovery of an innovative solution on demand. This led to the development of a framework for innovation that can be used to assess personal innovation in a repeatable manner.
Why Assess Personal Innovation Levels?
There are many reasons why an individual or company would benefit from assessing innovation levels including: 1) to determine the extent of currently practiced innovation and the gap between the current and the desired level of innovation, 2) to identify opportunities for improvement in terms of resources, knowledge or research, play or experimentation, and imagination or breakthrough change through creativity and 3) to evaluate ones personal "innovativeness" and challenge oneself to improve personal innovativeness, and produce more innovative solutions.
Development of the Personal Innovation Assessment Matrix
All discoveries occur in the human brain. The brain continually processes information by comparing stored and the new information. The speed of thoughts relates to how fast the brain processes the information stored and new, thus generating an idea. An innovation is a transformation of one set of ideas into another set of productive ideas. Therefore, the speed at which a person can process these thoughts becomes an important factor in accelerating or creating innovation on demand. Applying Einstein's equation to the process of innovation, one can equate E (energy) to the value associated with innovation, m to the physical effort or resources allocated to innovation and c to the speed of thought (which can be faster than the speed of light). Restating Einstein's equation, one finds the following relationship:
Innovation value = resources * (speed of thought),
where the speed of thought can be described by the following relationship: Speed of thought = function (knowledge, play, imagination)
The units of the innovation value can be represented by a new unit called Einstein (Ei), with the maximum value of "1." The innovation can be increased with more resources or faster generation and processing of ideas. The innovation value can be accelerated with better utilization of intellectual resources rather than merely allocating more physical resources to innovation.
The following matrix demonstrates an example of the quantification of innovation.
|Table 1: Matrix for Assessing Personal Innovation|
|Resources (R)||Degree of resources or time committed||50 percent (limited time and insufficient resources) and 50 percent (limited time and insufficient resources)|
|Knowledge (K)||Extent (%) of knowledge based on research and experience||75 percent (significant knowledge and experience gained, some latest work is to be explored)|
|Play (P)||Percentage (%) of possible combinations of various variables explored||40 percent (percentage of combination of variables explored mentally, experimentally or through simulation work is in progress)|
|Imagination (I)||Dimension extrapolated as a percentage of ideal solution for breakthrough improvement||66 percent (selected dimension is extrapolated such that improvement is expected to be about 30 percent, which is about 66 percent of the breakthrough improvement)|
|Innovation value (Iv)||Estimated innovation level|
0.182 (Long way to find an innovative solution due to lack of effort and play to accelerate, one needs to improve all elements of innovation)
|Comments||Initial estimation of the proposed model -further work is required||Innovation value = 0.5 * ((0.75 + 0.4 + 0.66) / 3) 2|
= 0.182 Einstein
In other words, the innovation value is equal to the resources (commitment) times a function of knowledge, play and imagination (KPI) squared. More than its numerical value, the equation identifies elements of innovation for maximizing the innovation value.
Most innovations are based on research, current experiments and innovative thinking. Measuring knowledge and quantifying combinatorial play are possible, but measuring imagination is difficult due to the complexity of mental processes. Therefore, imagination is transformed in quantifiable terms by understanding that pure imagination is a random extrapolation. Thus, imagination becomes a measurable component by nature of extrapolation.
When developing a strategic plan to accelerate innovation or achieve business objectives, a company's leadership can assess its innovativeness individually and collectively, and explore the opportunity to become more creative at the strategic level. In order to score higher for innovation, necessary intellectual resources must be committed, knowledge must be learned through research, sufficient experimentation or developmental work must be performed, and imagination must be used to increase the innovativeness of the product or solution.
About the Author:
Praveen Gupta is the lead author of Business Innovation in the 21st Century that organizes various aspects of innovation from concept to commercialization. He is the president of Accelper Consulting, which provides training and consulting services in innovation and teaches business innovation at Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. Contact Praveen Gupta at praveen (at) accelper.com or visit http://www.accelper.com.
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