Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guide to Becoming a Corporate Innovant

Innovation within a corporation (or any other enterprise) results from the productive application of creativity within a box. And, as anyone experienced in corporate life knows, innovating within the box is quite often more difficult than innovating outside the box. And, in truth, most corporations don't want out of the box innovations as they are generally too risky, disruptive and often misinformed.

Sir N. O. Vant originated as part of an innovation enhancement program in IBM in the 1980s. He was devised as a play on words and a metaphor easily recognized, a gallant knight. I apologize immediately to the females of the business world for it was not and still is not my intent to offend anyone or suggest that females could not be innovants. Sir N. O. Vant represents the limits of my imagination to create a character or set of characters that would be gender neutral. So, with apologizes to the women in business who are certainly more than damsels in distress, I offer our gallant knight.

The character of Sir N. O. Vant developed over the seven years that the innovation enhancement program ran, and were a feature in each edition of an internal magazine, Creativity!, with a distribution of over 60,000 technical profesionals. All of the cartoons are creatively drawn by Scott Byers. Each episode features our fearless knight, Sir N. O. Vant, undertaking some perilous activity to bring a new idea into a business. Each is accompanied by a short description expounding on the principle. The colloquialisms represented by the cartoons are drawn from my experience innovating inside IBM, research and experience as a consultant. They began when I was asked to share my personal experiences in IBM as an internal entrepreneur. They were part of a presentation I gave many times within IBM.

The context for these thoughts is an individual inside of a large organization with a strong and resilient culture, often portrayed as the dragon.

I hope in this series of cartoons and brief essays to show that there are some practices you can follow which will help you do what you have resoundingly said you want to do -- innovate, be a change master, an intrapreneur, an innovant.

Some definitions:
Innovant: Having innovations
Innovation: The introduction of something new; something which deviates from an established doctrine or procedure; something that differs from existing forms
Intrapreneur: A person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation

Paul Schumann
April 1, 2011
Austin, Texas

Guide to Becoming a Corporate Innovant

1 comment:

  1. Hi Paul, I like your refreshing way of how innovation and change can be facilitated in a large organizations. Keep it up! René