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Innovation at work: are we paying it lip service?

Most people intuitively know that innovation is what creates new value. And most people also know that new value has a high probability of creating new economic activity…or at least improving things a bit.

And this is not merely a “street smart” reality. It’s a well researched, studied and acknowledged reality that innovation truly is the driving force for economic and/or social progress. I know a bit about this research, because I studied innovation in-depth in my graduate studies at the Organizational Dynamics program at Penn.

What I also learned through these studies is that some of the most meaningful and valuable innovations come from people who think and work holistically — across disciplines. Yes, we can certainly develop iterative improvements within a given discipline, but most of the game changing advances occur when people look across areas that are rarely connected. Imagine, for instance, an oncology department that began thinking like a counter-terrorist task force. If we started thinking of tumors like terrorists cells, would we enable new, innovative ways to approach the treatment — or even the root causes — of cancer?

While I’m certain there are plenty of environments where true innovation is occurring, it would seem to me as I poll my friends and family in the workforce that innovation is the exception, not the rule. What I see on a macro level is a national work culture stuck on process improvements, cost reduction strategies, revenue targets and iterative improvements.

In America, we continue to look at the richest and the poorest to blame for our economic woes. Funny thing about that: it’s the richest and the poorest who are the most innovative… for vastly different reasons. And the culture rejects this innovation as “stealing” from the system. Yet, what I see is a massive middle of people who are tragically under-utilizing their minds to develop, create and enable new value through real innovative approaches to solving problems and spotting opportunities.

This, in essence, is much of what Capital D Strategies aims to do — help clients create new value by providing a framework and methodologies to allow real innovation to breathe more freely. What I see is a cultural suffocation of our creative minds, and Capital D Design aims to help people’s creativity breathe more freely when thinking about their business or organizational problems and opportunities.

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