Perspectives on Innovation

Today everybody wants to talk about innovation and, as a result, innovation “experts” are popping up all over the place.

The number of people providing advice and counsel on innovation reminds me of what happened some decades ago, when companies finally recognized there was a growing Hispanic market.  Everybody with a “Z” at the end of their name claimed to be an Hispanic marketing expert.

Today everybody wants to talk about innovation and, as a result, innovation “experts” are popping up all over the place.

I’ve worked in innovation – what we used to call new products – since the 70’s.  Yep back around the time we were inventing fire and working on the abacus.  Like many of you, I sat through brainstorming training – and then ran dozens of sessions.  I’ve listened to lean innovation and design thinking.  I’ve read about the dilemmas innovators face, and heard about the solutions to those dilemmas.  

Full disclosure – for the last several years I have been deeply involved with what I believe is the real deal for innovation – The Innovation Engineering Network – so you can decide if the rest of this article is worthy of your time.

What I’m writing about today is two books that are about to come out that I’d encourage you to read.  They are from two men I’ve come to know and I believe they have a better grasp of what it takes to get truly innovative ideas to market, than any of the other models, gurus, or companies I’ve met, heard or read.

Operative words in that sentence -- get truly innovative ideas to market. 

Two key parts of that phrase are (a) truly innovative and (b) to market.

Like many of you, I’ve been a part of and even led teams charged with innovation. And too often the results were some combination of pretty close-in ideas that were never going to be big enough to break through the noise in the market place, OR ideas that never got to see the light of day.  

Having ideas has never been the problem for most companies.  The problems have been the ideas just aren’t very big. 

Doug Hall is the founder of Eureka Ranch and for over thirty years he has been working with companies all over the globe to develop new products and services.  He was an admitted guru.  But in too many cases what that meant was that he helped companies develop great ideas only to watch them die on the vine because companies didn’t have the system in place to nurture and launch many of those ideas.

About five years ago he changed his model.  He and his team at the Ranch developed Innovation Engineering, a complete end-to-end system to identify, develop, and launch ideas based on facts, analysis and systems thinking.

Doug Hall’s new book will be available after the first of the year.  It spells out the Innovation Engineering System in detail – where it came from – how it’s being used – how it can work for you and your organization.  As soon as we get the pre-order details, I’ll send them out.

Dr. Jeff DeGraff is a professor on the faculty of the University of Michigan’s Ross business school. And those of you who know I’m a Michigan State fanatic will appreciate how good this guy must be if I’m going to speak highly of him.

Over the last thirty years he has been a leader in the study of innovation and his Innovatrium is a go to source for dozens of Fortune 500 companies and their CEOs when it comes to innovation.

Jeff’s new book is called The innovation Code:  The Creative Power of Constructive Conflict.  It will be available shortly and Jeff is now offering a special deal for pre-orders.  Just go to and I’ll let him sell you on the program.

Doug and Jeff don’t agree on everything.  They have substantially different views on a couple of key points. But they have the credentials and record of success that deserve your consideration.  I’m not going to pan particular idea companies, but what I find different about these two guys from all the consultants is that they don’t want to be your consultant for life. They want to teach your people how to become innovators in everything they do.

Both of these gentlemen recognize that generating ideas is the easy part.  Generating great ideas is less easy, but the real work just starts when someone has an idea.

Both have developed systems, methodologies to get bigger and better ideas into the market.  Both have written a number of books that you can review at your leisure.  But today, I’m suggesting you get in line to get their latest books.

With so many organizations needing real innovation – and so many people claiming to be expert in the area, I wanted to give you my vote on two guys who you should consider listening to.