People love the idea of ‘accidental innovation’. The term ‘accidental innovation’ is often used to describe the invention of things like penicillin, microwave ovens, Nutrasweet and vulcanized rubber. The stories behind these accidental innovations are intoxicating because they make it seem like innovation can come from anywhere – in an instant. But often people don’t tell the whole story behind these accidental innovations. As a result, people get the impression that innovation is easy, they confuse ideas with innovation, and as a result, a project-based approach to innovation is reinforced.
When it comes to innovation, good ideas are a dime a dozen. If you ask people for ideas or run a brainstorming session, you will get ideas, lots of ideas, but that doesn’t mean you’ll create any new innovation in your organization. Creating innovation is not about just getting a bunch of ideas, picking one, and then creating a project and throwing human and financial resources behind it. Sure it seems quick and easy, and maybe a fire drill approach to innovation might work once in a while (maybe when your growth crisis is particularly severe), but this approach is not sustainable.