6 constraints to innovation – image from Leading Strategic Innovation Course
Yes, I’m taking another MOOC. This time it’s Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations taught by Prof. David Owens via Coursera & Vanderbilt University. Owens is the author of the book Creative People Must Be Stopped and he’s worked as an engineer and project developer at IDEO.
Because of work and time constraints I’m not taking the studio project track for this course (requires group participation in a project). I do think that I would probably gain much more in doing so, but considering the limited amount of time I have in the next two months, I’m opting out of the course project (sad about it).
My first impressions of the course
I’m having a difficult time feeling engaged with the course community because the forums are overwhelming. Imagine a attending lecture hall inside a football stadium, that’s what it feels like in there. And I don’t have a cheese hat or giant foam hand to wave around. It’s probably best to join a study group, but Yogita (former #edcmooc or Elearing & Digital Cultures student) has started a G+ Forum and I’m hoping that more discussion will take place there. Despite the lack of engagement in the course community, I’m still enjoying the lectures a great deal. Professor David Owens and his supporting staff or crew have done a fairly good job making the lectures more visually engaging. He’s interjected himself in the lecture videos and sometimes interacts with the slides using props or himself. Even if you’re not interested in participating in the course activities or following through with the entire course, I highly recommend checking out the lectures. I plan to use Owen’s arguments when framing proposals for innovation within my own group at work.
David Owens Participates in the Visual Presentations of his Lectures
Course Content So Far
This week Owens has provided an introduction to how the course is structured around overcoming six constraints to innovation as he has them outlined in his book:
Seems like he’s maintaining that one of the keys to successfully implementing innovation is not just to overcome these constraints but to pinpoint the sweet spots where these constraints overlap and cherry pick the ones that will have the greatest impact. It’s these constraints that you should focus on overcoming to solve the problem of making the innovation or idea viable in your current situation.
I’ll admit when I first started taking this class, I was skeptical about how the book frames innovation around a negative: “Creative People Must Be Stopped.” Even after reading the course introduction I asked myself why are we structuring how we innovate around constraints or why “we can’t innovate.” Now it makes a little more sense to me, as Owens is taking not just the “glass half full” view, he’s looking at the constraints as a possible puzzle to solve instead of an impossibility that restrains you. I like that way of thinking.
Discussion about Overrated Innovation Companies
In week 1 we were asked to participate in the discussion and point out leading companies who are overrated innovation-wise. If I were to continue with Owen’s line of thinking around overcoming innovation constraints, it seems that any company can be innovative or appear so simply by overcoming the constraints to making their products or services viable:
- Nike promoted their products and overcame public accusations over unfair labor practices by courting & using the Olympic Idols of our day to promote their products. Though the fall from Olympus has been a long drop for a few of these idols lately.
- As Owen’s Pointed out in his lectures. The inventor of the walking sausage grill in Germany overcame the problem of having good foot-traffic accessible space by making his food vending carts more than just mobile. They made them ‘ambulatory.’
- And finally Apple overcame a number of constraints as noted in my forum post lost in a sea of posts:
Sorry about the size. You can click on it to read at a reasonable size.
My challenge to myself in the next few weeks is to look at the constraints within both my own workplace and my life and try to pinpoint which constraints I want to focus on overcoming. I also want to work on my ability to frame and sell my ideas using arguments that work with the different audiences I face. I’m also hoping to do more reflection on how I’ve adapted and sometimes even thrived working in corporate culture in addition to some avenues for participating and influencing this culture even as a wee little cubicle person.
I’ll admit this freely here: I like change at work and problems to solve. I’ve never been one for finding that ‘secure’ job where you mindlessly go with the flow, and part of me believes that the world is changing so fast that that formerly pervasive sort of job mentality may be going the way of the dinosaur. However, this may not be the view of many people tied into the traditional view of work and I have to temper this as well as explain how opportunities for innovation and change can benefit and their end value out-weigh the perceived or real fear and chaos that change brings to some.
At one point this too was a good design. Image from the Morguefile