The Myth of Accidental Innovation

by | Sep 22, 2012

Penicillin, the microwave and NutraSweet are often cited as examples of accidental innovation. Often people don’t share, or know, the full story behind these “accidental” inventions. As a result, a project-based approach to innovation is reiterated, according to Braden Kelley, writing for Innovation Excellence.

Brainstorming sessions may bring up a lot of new ideas, but not necessarily any new innovation. Innovation is not just about picking one idea from many and throwing money behind it. This model is not sustainable.

The microwave is often cited as an example of accidental innovation. Image: Lifehacker.com.au.

Inventing is hard work. Commercialising these inventions is even trickier. Successful innovation requires three things:

1. Passion

2. Persistence

3. Multidisciplinary collaboration and execution.

Innovation thrives in a structured environment. Alexander Graham Bell brought together an experienced team of scientists and other professionals and instilled some structure around them.

A formal approach to innovation could be introduced by following these 10 steps:

1. Defining what innovation means for your business

2. Creating a common innovation language for your team

3. Crafting an innovation vision

4. Shaping an innovation strategy

5. Deciding on goals

6. Building an innovation process

7. Allocating funding

8. Diversifying innovation portfolio by investing in projects with different risk levels, for example time and key resources.

9. Determining who will work on which projects

10. Instrumenting projects so you can learn quickly

Innovation takes courage. If fear of failure permeates, change that first or set up innovation outside the normal chain of command so failure and risk can be managed properly.

Jeffrey Tobias

About Jeffrey Tobias

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well-known startups.

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Managing Director, The Strategy Group

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well known startups. Jeffrey’s corporate background includes leading global innovation strategy at Cisco, working with large corporates such as Adobe, Westpac, Telstra, Woolworths, and Perpetual.

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