There’s logic in cracking the code of innovation


Words by Leanne Kemp, Queensland Chief Entrepreneur

Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?

Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the great innovators. From inventions to art, he’s inspired many – remember when we were all convinced there was a secret code to his work thanks to Dan Brown?

A modern treasure hunt for the Holy Grail may not lead us to the Louvre after all, I’d suggest we start looking to crack the key to innovation, to me a far more elusive and worthy prize.

Why are some companies able to sustain high growth in revenue and profits and others are not?

And why do some teams thrive in uncertain scenarios where others fall apart?

It’s simple: managers of less successful companies follow conventional strategic logic. And managers of high growth companies follow innovation logic. 

Business as usual (conventional strategic logic)            

The new normal (innovation logic)

Prescribe and control

Enable and learn

Assumes predictability

Assumes uncertainty 

Simple interdependencies

Complex interdependencies 

Emphasis on efficiency

Emphasis on experimentation 

Clear shared criteria

Multiple competing criteria

Hierarchical command

Distributed teaming

Insist on adherence to plan

Engage the experts and stay out of the way!

Conventional strategic logic and innovation logic differ along the basic dimensions of strategy, execution, formation and re-formation. Many companies, some CEOs, and most certainly governments, take industry conditions as a given. Entrepreneurs and innovators do not. Many let competitors set the parameters of strategic thinking. Entrepreneurs and innovators do not use rivals as benchmarks. 

Innovation is a complex beast where companies and leaders have to manage the “future possible” alongside the “what is urgent right now”. Companies need to cultivate a multifractal style of thinking where left and right brain, creative and commercial, come together to inform innovation initiatives that are likely to outstrip their competitors and might even disrupt the current status quo.

Innovation logic is adaptive and constantly evolving. So how do you execute without a blueprint?

Rather than viewing opportunities through the lens of existing assets and capabilities, entrepreneurs and innovators ask: what if we start anew? Rather than focus on the differences among customers, innovators look for what customers value in common. 

There are four types of innovation: incremental, disruptive, architectural, radical. Each illustrates various ways companies can innovate. The goal of innovation in business is to create new demand and change the market enough to render the competition irrelevant in that market. 

This has already been proven in the likes of Uber, Airbnb and Spotify… Why can this logic not be applied to leaders, managers teams and technicians? The answers lies in the pages of innovation logic. 

From the outside looking in, innovation logic looks like an uncracked Enigma machine, but to seasoned entrepreneurs and innovators it is a native tongue language common to the mavericks among us. 

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

Leonardo again. So what are you waiting for? Mix it up with the mavericks. Get out there and get happening.