Innovation Catalytic Converters

Sometimes it is very pleasing that “what goes around, comes around”. Recently I was reading a piece by Scott Anthony, talking about the new era of innovation under his article appearing in the HBR The New Corporate Garage, and I had one of those ‘coming around moments’ and went on a hunt through my old files.

Then Deanna Lawrence prompted this even further in a twitter note to me and a few others, mentioning a www.you tube.com discussion on catalysts and infusions which just added more of the ‘coming around’ that I’m sensing or reading about. Take a look at this video. In it,  Hans-Peter Neumann of BASF (the Chemical Company) and Marcel Vigneron, a celebrity chef, talk through and describe the unique similarities of innovative catalysis and molecular gastronomy they share in how they approach innovation. I love it when you can share a common language and set of beliefs and gain validation in what you do.

So why does this get my interest?

Well firstly I think there is some movement to a new phase of innovation, maybe to Scott’s forth-era innovation, as he is suggesting in his words: “For catalysts to flourish, companies need to embrace open innovation, approach innovation systematically, simplify and decentralize decision-making mechanisms, and be learning-focused and failure-tolerant. Beyond that, they need to make the pursuit of transformative innovation a purpose-driven activity.

I think we are working at both the edges of discovery as we are equally at our core, in innovation and we do need to pursue both in parallel. We need to identify, explore and become more immersed in bigger picture innovation as well as extract from what we have already available, to extend in new, better ways. To catalyse needs considerable experimentation ,trial and error and a real passion and energy to find that ‘reaction’ point. Often it is the ‘raw’ energy and commitment of individuals that provide that catalytic effect.

We do need to accelerate reactions

We need to accelerate reactions in people, in processes, in discoveries, in research, in our thinking. We must advance upon our current state as we do seem to be stuck at this moment in an awful lot of ‘intractable’ problems in the world and not delivering the new innovating horsepower that will take us out of some tough economic times. So innovation reactions need catalysts. Seems fair enough.

Back in 2003 I worked on a concept around catalysts, more for the sister company that was more the dominating force in my life back then, when I was based in Singapore for HOCA Consulting.  It got ‘aired’ but received little traction, perhaps it was not its time or it lacked its solution purpose .Perhaps it needs to get more tied into Scott’s suggested purpose-driven activity. It would make sense and gives a concept a clearer context. Let me offer it here, as it was presented in 2003.

Speeding up your reaction time in a catalytic ways

I started with my definition at that time “Catalysts act as innovation reactors that are connecting across economic webs, combining “raw” capability with innovation thought, to achieve unique value creation quickly, so as to compete in different ways in increasingly disruptive markets

Looking afresh at this definition it seems to have weathered the age of time. Below is my visual for that concept which seems a little busy and maybe a ‘catch all’ approach but it does provide the different aspects what need to be brought together so we can get a greater catalytic effect.

My view of a catalytic effect, like a reactor

So if we can encourage reactions, cause new activities,  prompt more transformation and unleash a whole new wave of energy, then I’m going to be happy to get involved in the next generation of innovation activity. I need to crank up my reactor concept first, though it does need some dusting down and refitting, with its mark IV innovation catalytic converter.

As Scott Anthony poses “are you ready” for the next generation of innovation?

image credit: hocaconsulting.com

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Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.

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One Response to Innovation Catalytic Converters

  1. Pingback: Articles of Interest – October 5, 2012 « National Creativity Network

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