by Yule Heibel on October 25, 2007

Via CEOs for Cities, a pointer to an interesting article in Business Week about innovation — Five Common Mistakes in Innovation — that included the paragraph below, which really caught my attention. Anyone who has ever participated in community initiatives, non-profit work, government or school-governance type stuff, knows the drill of endless “brainstorming” and “pilot initiatives.” The frustration of seeing those things go (almost) nowhere takes its toll. In reality, it’s like the author writes: “… the script for innovation isn’t a mystery. It just takes a long time and a lot of change to pull off.”

Here’s the excerpt that looked so familiar…

• Over-reliance on pilot initiatives “We’ll be more innovative if we do more brainstorming sessions.”In an attempt to take action quickly, some companies initiate projects that focus on a single product idea or a promising near-term opportunity. Alternatively, they latch on to a single technique, such as ethnographies or brainstorming. Yet, for most companies, the scale of impact required is too massive to depend on a single approach.

Recognizing this, successful companies such as Procter & Gamble (PG) are taking a portfolio approach to innovation, working with multiple consultants and using multiple methods so the process of innovation becomes a series of multiple experiments. They then come away with a better understanding of not only which methods and partners work, but which ones work best with their existing organizational culture.

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