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Innovation Goals – Brass Ring or Fool’s Gold

Reading Seth Godin’s observation on goals, I had to smile.  In a few words, Seth captured a key paradox of innovation.  We want the freedom to think expansively and discover unexpected value, yet we want to know that our investments in innovation will be aligned with our mission and yield a high return.

Many innovation practitioners eschew the interference of such things as goals and objectives.  The reasoning tends to be that goals create constraints to the innovative process and that the innovator must be free to explore any avenue in order to find the best opportunities.  But this viewpoint is not supported by practice and experience.

As Seth points out, “the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact… those people have goals.”  You don’t have to look far to see shining examples of this around us.  Edison was very goal driven.  Would we have put men on the moon if the goal had not been given a voice?  Rather than constraining our vision, goals provide a lens that brings clarity to our view of the innovation landscape.  Things that were fuzzy, liminal, and beyond our reach come into sharp focus and become distinct possibilities.

One of the first steps to breaking the shackles of accidental innovation practice is the acceptance that innovation both can and should be directed by goals and objectives that provide the clarity of vision to help us find high value innovations.  When an organization starts to realign its thinking and believe that value creation through innovation must be a part of everything it does the seeds of a healthy and sustainable innovation culture can take root.JT