I've reviewed the histories of hundreds of innovative projects from different industries, team sizes, and eras, and distilled five traits that managers of those efforts applied. Of course, this is not a guarantee: exceptions can be found of leaders following these and failing, as well as those who ignored them but still had success (see Chapter 3). However, the patterns are strong enough to apply widely, including start-up companies, solo efforts, ad-hoc groups, or even innovative projects in large organizations. No matter how many people are involved, these five challenges are faced by someone and must be overcome to bring the innovation to the world:
Life of ideas
Ideas are everywhere. Chapter 6 explored some of the basics of creative thinking, but the life of ideas is bigger than what happens in brainstorming meetings. The best idea-finding sessions in the world are useless if that creative energy doesn't go anywhere. Ideas don't do much—it's what's done with them that matters. Are they funded? Encouraged? Used to reinvent and rethink? Given time to grow? Rewarded with cash prizes or trips to Hawaii? Are people pushed to explore, prototype, follow their instincts, and learn from what happens?
Teams with healthy idea life cycles are easy to spot: ideas flow between people easily and in large volumes. Conversations are vibrant with questions and suggestions, prototypes and demos happen ...