Originally published July 7, 2014

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Most organizations are in favor of increasing innovation. Innovation is easy to talk about, but is harder to actually do. Knowledge management should enable and support innovation, but how?

Innovation can be enabled where these practices are in place.

  1. Internal and external collaboration is used to seek potential solutions. Leaders blog or use an enterprise social network regularly to ask for suggestions, and they reply to to let people know what will actually be done.
  2. Communities of practice are valued as a source ideas on the top issues facing the organization. Members believe that their voices are being heard.
  3. Skepticism about idea collection is acknowledged. Submitting suggestions may be perceived as a waste of time, since in the past, no changes were made. To counter this perception, new and meaningful changes are implemented to show that things are different now.
  4. There is willingness to try out new ways of doing things, illustrating tangible manifestations of concepts. Once implemented, successive iterations are applied for continuous improvement.
  5. Appreciative Inquiry is used to identify and build on successful processes, and Positive Deviance is used to look for successful outliers that are then replicated widely.

Here are ten ways to stimulate innovation.

  1. Ask communities of practice, both internal and external, for ideas. Challenge members to collaborate to improve culture, processes, and tools.
  2. Follow good examples from other organizations, such as the Netflix prize, P&G Connect & Develop, IBM Jams, and InnoCentive.
  3. Conduct experiments to test new methods. Use analytics to analyze the results and pick the ones that are most effective. See How to Design Smart Business Experiments.
  4. Ask for suggested improvements, use rapid prototyping to try them out, and then iterate and improve (see Implement, Improve, and Iterate). Don’t overanalyze, plan endlessly, or wait for consensus. Risk failure and encourage safe-fail, rather than fail-safe. Quickly learn from failure and move on. Try three experiments and pick the best solution. Implement new approaches quickly, which will generate more new ideas.
  5. Enable innovation by supporting integration of diverse tools. Don’t require a single platform — use APIs, RSS, search, and web parts to integrate tools. Encourage skunk works projects to use these techniques to create new features which build on and connect with existing platforms.
  6. Encourage the formation of book clubs, discussion groups, and brainstorming sessions to get people thinking about new and better ways of doing things. Take the best ideas and implement them.
  7. Hold regular innovation challenges, tournaments, and jams. See Make Your Next Innovation Jam Work. Be sure to follow through to implement as many good ideas as possible, and inform participants about outcomes.
  8. Ask people to use collaboration tools such as enterprise social networks (ESNs) to discuss ideas for improvements, new approaches, and breakthroughs. These tools can be inside, outside, or across organizations.
  9. Invite people outside your organization to speak on calls, present at meetings, and participate in workshops. Adapt their methods for use in your organization.
  10. Set up prediction markets to use the wisdom of crowds to choose between alternatives.

Steve Denning’s book The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management describes seven interlocking principles of continuous innovation:

  1. Focusing the entire organization on delighting clients
  2. Working in self-organizing teams
  3. Operating in client-driven iterations
  4. Delivering value to clients with each iteration
  5. Fostering radical transparency
  6. Nurturing continuous self-improvement
  7. Communicating interactively

These books offer good ideas and methods for innovation.

  1. The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki
  2. The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen
  3. The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth by Michael E. Raynor and Clayton M. Christensen
  4. The Innovator’s Manifesto: Deliberate Disruption for Transformational Growth by Michael E. Raynor
  5. The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems by Richard Pascale, Jerry Sternin, and Monique Sternin
  6. The New Age of Innovation: Driving Cocreated Value Through Global Networks by C.K. Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan
  7. Leading for Innovation: And Organizing For Results edited by Frances Hesselbein. Marshall Goldsmith, and Iain Somerville
  8. Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker
  9. The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun
  10. Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning by Thomas H. Davenport and Jeanne G. Harris

Also see the presentation and SlideShare versions of this article, the article on Creation Process, and look under Social Software Products and Social Media Products for Idea management and open innovation in Social Software and Social Media.


  1. What other ideas do you suggest for stimulating innovation?
  2. What are some examples of successful innovation?
  3. How can we get past idea submission to actual implementation?
  4. What would motivate you to participate in an innovation challenge?
  5. What is the difference between innovation and invention?

Written by

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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