Innovation When You Least Expect It

I’m in San Francisco to give a talk, and I flew here on United. I discovered that this month’s in-flight magazine has a special section on innovation! I have to admit, I rarely even open the in-flight magazines when I travel, so this is the last thing I was expecting.

It starts with an interview with Fareed Zakaria. I didn’t know he had thought much about innovation, but based on this interview, he’s clearly read the right books and understands the research consensus on how innovation works:

Zakaria has discovered that true innovation isn’t merely the product of a great idea, but a ripple that tends to spread out in unforeseen ways.

Yes, unpredictable and improvisational–like jazz or improv theater.

Another  quotation from Zakaria:

[What’s behind an extraordinary idea] is the interaction between human beings. That depends on openness, because open systems tend to be much more innovative.

That’s why my 2007 book on innovation is called Group Genius, and I call these maximally innovative open systems “collaborative webs.”

Another short article in the issue mentions the massive innovation in the craft brewing business, and also mentions Pernod Ricard’s new Breakthrough Innovation Group, which has come up with new beverages like Absolut Tune. (I’m all for innovation in the beverage sector!) They go on to point out that Kimberly-Clark conducts “expert acceleration sessions”; Intuit organizes “lean start-ins”, and General Mills has two “innovation squads.” (p. 83)

I’ll have to start paying more attention to those in-flight magazines!

*David Carr. “The Hemi Q&A: Fareed Zakaria.” Hemispheres magazine, February 2013, p. 72-73, 130.