CHAPTER 5Defining Innovation—A Balanced Approach

I am looking for a lot of people who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.

—Henry Ford

How you look at innovation, describe it, and characterize it is important. You should create a lexicon, an innovation vernacular that all employees can understand and use. Think of the book StrengthsFinder, which created a lexicon of 34 strengths with associated definitions. When someone reads that book and takes the test to find their strengths, they can easily compare and contrast what they consider their strengths, their teams’ strengths, and so on. And it isn’t just a lexicon, it establishes some rules of the road. You can—and should—do the same with innovation: Describe small and large innovations, what is expected, what is accepted in your organization, and how it gets executed.

I used a balanced approach to innovation at companies. Consider a baseball analogy. Good defense and great pitching are crucial to winning a baseball game. But at the end of the day, if you don’t score any runs, you have zero chance of winning. Therefore, scoring runs is important to win. What is the best way to score runs? Well, that depends. Baseball is about situations, players, matchups, and many extraneous factors. In an oversimplified summary, I’d suggest you need to hit singles along with extra-base hits (doubles, triples, and home runs) in order to score runs to win the game. I don’t think it’s the best strategy to just hit singles, ...

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