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Innovating with Meaning: More Elements of the "Innovation Field"

Two weeks ago, we introduced our model for viewing innovation from a team and organization perspective. The model, which we call the "Innovation Field," is described at length in our bestselling book, The Seeds of Innovation. Again, in brief, the Innovation Field incorporates eight key areas or "elements" (metaphorically, think soil composition) that together, create a systematic view of how to create and improve the conditions for innovation.

In previous posts, we introduced the first four elements of the Innovation Field. Let’s now take a look at the fifth and sixth elements of the model:

5) Innovation Programs

6) Innovation Skills Development

Innovation Programs
It is important to "rally the troops" in meaningful ways behind innovation programs or special events. An innovation program is specifically and explicitly designed to focus everyone’s attention on improving and sustaining innovation and has a designated time frame for starting and finishing. These programs or special events serve to align further the members of the organization and instill a stronger innovation culture. An innovation leader should provide the program or special event format, resources, training, and incentives, as well as establish a communication feedback process after the program/event, to ensure that the focus on innovation is widespread throughout the organization.

Innovation Skills Development
Innovative thinking is a skill. It can be taught, and with practice, it can be improved. It is critical that members of the organization feel confident in finding, developing, and implementing new ideas in order to "fertilize" and "cultivate" the group’s Innovation Field. By developing their innovation skills, members will be able to see a range of opportunities to strengthen the group/team, as well as the whole organization. Innovation skills development is a key element in developing and sustaining a culture of innovation. Unfortunately, in our experience, this particular element, along with Innovation Process Networks, which was introduced in last week’s post, tend to be the weakest components of the overall Innovation Field. To address this weakness, innovation should be viewed and treated as a core competency for all employees!

Are you Innovating with Meaning by maximizing the return from your Innovation Programs and encouraging Innovation Skills Development?

Blog Co-Authors:

Dr. Alex Pattakos is the author of Prisoners of Our Thoughts ( and Elaine Dundon is author of The Seeds of Innovation (  They are co-authors of Innovating with Meaning (forthcoming).

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  • Dr. Alex Pattakos

    Thanks, Drew, for your comment. Please note that we have never proposed that simply declaring innovation as a core competency for all employees "solves" the innovation challenge! On the contrary, if you look at our previous posts, you will find that our approach to Innovation Management is holistic, systemic, integrated, and systematic. In fact, we co-designed and co-taught the first course on Innovation Management of this kind in North America at the University of Toronto. Moreover, the eight elements of the "Innovation Field" that we are currently introducing must be placed within the context of the "seeds of innovation" that are described in Elaine's book, The Seeds of Innovation, and vice versa. Planting the "seeds of innovation" (i.e., core competencies) in nonfertile soil will be futile as will having a fertile innovation field with no "seeds" to plant and cultivate!

  • Drew Boyd

    I am inclined to agree with the assertion that innovation skills development is the weakest link. I don't agree with the notion that we can solve this by simply declaring it as a core competency. It takes more than that. But not much more. Innovation is indeed a skill that can be taught, and the key is to find a method that is teachable, repeatable, and successful. Such methods exist. See: