People starting in business, or those new to the workforce such as students, hear many confusing management expressions (jargon). The term “innovation” will likely be at the top of the list. Here is an overview to help you to understand some of this jargon.


Innovation is a lot like physical fitness. Why? Talking about fitness does not make you fit, any more than talking about innovation makes you innovative. Many people in government and business seem to ignore this fact.


Innovation is more than technology. Many executives say, “We are investing in technology to become more innovative.” This is wrong. Refer to Lesson one and consider: does investing in running shoes make you more fit? No. Only if you use these shoes in 3 ways that make you fit. Only the innovative use of technology makes you innovative.


Creativity is about finding new and original ideas while innovation processes manage the best ideas into action. If results are beyond the norm, we may conclude that it was an innovative idea.


It is best to consider innovation in terms of “innovative thinking”. Everyone in every organisation solves problems, creates opportunities and deals with change. The more innovative we are in finding higher quality solutions and opportunities, the better off we are.


Research finds that the most innovative companies (the ones that continually launch new products and services, and profit from them) have two things in common: everyone in the business knows how to manage their ideas, and they create a climate that is open to new ideas.


Innovative thinking is driven by your ability to manage ideas. Managing ideas means moving them through the stages of testing and development to ensure that the final idea is worthy of action. Enhance your ability to manage ideas by developing your skills in these five key areas:

• Generating ideas – learn to brainstorm new ideas
• Developing ideas – learn to develop your ideas
• Judging your ideas – is your idea good or great?
• Promoting your ideas – you may have to sell it before it can happen
• Translating your ideas into actions – remember that action builds power


Learn to be a creative rather than a critical thinker. Start by reading something by Edward de Bono, such as Serious Creativity.


If an organisation is not pursing innovations, it is then pursuing mediocrity and complacency. Avoid these organisations.


I speak at many conferences. Most people think that they are innovative thinkers until I ask, “Who was at this conference last year, made notes, and never looked at them again?” Half of the people admit to this. Don’t fall into this trap. Listen for the main ideas and write them down, along with questions that arise in your head and the actions you will take. If the speaker says something profound, write down the quote.


Are businesses more innovative than the public sector or the not for-profit sector? Sometimes – but review the list of Kiwi companies that have gone bankrupt through bad management!
Analyse an organisation’s record. Is it innovative in the services or products it provides and in the way it manages people? Organisations that are will be satisfying to work for, regardless of their structure.

Now you know more about innovative thinking than most!