Practice of Innovation

"The way we work is our most important innovation." Observations by Curtis R. Carlson

DNA, Luck, or Skill?

The Discipline and Practice of Innovation  

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Creating a high-value innovation architecture

Innovation is not the result of a lone genius or luck.  There are innovative superstars, but most professionals can be successful innovators once they learn how.  And, since we all have customers, we should all be creating more value for them.  Innovation is a disciplined process based on fundamental concepts from the learning sciences combined with best practices from the world’s most successful innovators.  (more…)

Innovation’s Importance

“Our most important innovation is the way we work”

Mighty Mite
The New Yorker: Searching for the Perfect Athlete

Since innovation is the primary driver of human progress, activities that speed up or improve innovative success have special importance.  There are many inputs that can improve innovative performance, including education, government policy, and investments.  But ultimately they impact how we work — how we create value for our customers — how we innovate.  

Today’s innovative performance is generally poor.  It is reminiscent of the terrible manufacturing quality and high cost of products after WW II.  But that changed with the pioneering innovations of Deming, Juran, and Ohno and the advent of total quality management (TQM). At first the power of continuous improvement based on fundamental learning and improvement concepts was unappreciated, but over time performance was revolutionized.  With TQM, cost and quality have both been transformed, often by hundreds of times compared to the 1950s.  Today almost every manufacturing and service enterprise uses some version of TQM. (more…)

Innovation is Learning, Searching, and Creating

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By Lonni Sue Johnson

“Learn fast to succeed early.”  Yes.  “Fail fast to succeed early.”  No!

The right concepts move us forward.  The wrong concepts hold us back.

In Silicon Valley it is often said, “You must fail fast to succeed early.”  That is tragically wrong.  The goal is never to fail fast.  It is also demoralizing.  


“Mother of All Demos”

Doug Engelbart (right) with Curt Carlson at SRI honoring Doug

Douglas Engelbart

Douglas Engelbart (1925 to 2013) was one of the world’s greatest innovators and scientific pioneers, having created at SRI International (at the time Stanford Research Institute) the computer mouse, hypertext, networked computers, and the graphical user interface.  That is, he created the fundamental ideas behind the modern PC interface, including multiple windows, real-time text editing, and video teleconferencing.

Engelbart’s overriding mission was to augment human intelligence so that society could more rapidly solve its important, urgent problems.  He did that in his computer science work but he also made seminal contributions to our understanding of the fundamental principles that allow it to happen. (more…)

Our Value Proposition for Your Important Need

Important Need

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Curt Carlson, Founder and CEO of the Practice of Innovation and former CEO of SRI International in Silicon Valley, California

Is your enterprise thriving or struggling to keep up?  Are your R&D and marketing departments systematically creating one major breakthrough after another?  Is your business being commoditized?  If your answers are negative, you are not alone.  Innovative performance is generally poor.  In America more companies are dying than being born, and the lifetime of the S&P 500 is under 20 years. These trends are world-wide and accelerating.

In all the companies we have worked with, generally less than 30% of their new initiatives turned out to have any value for the enterprise.  Most were interesting projects for those involved, but not important to the enterprise.  Remarkably, less than 10% of these companies had a thoughtful innovation process. Senior management claimed they did, but when middle-level managers were asked to describe it, they gave back blank looks. That is the test. If a manager can’t describe their company’s innovation process, there is none.  It should not be surprising that the company’s innovative results are poor.  (more…)