Running with your innovation radar on

I really dig this interview that Helen Walters recently conducted with Alan MacCormack.  In it, MacCormack uses the metaphor of a radar system to express a way of viewing the world that is quite consistent with behaviors I've seen expressed on a repeated basis by creative individuals and innovative organizations alike.

I particularly like his emphasis upon establishing "innovation radars" to tap in to high-variance information streams that will help you see and understand what is coming next.  For example, MacCormack talks about taking R&D funds and spending them on external
organizations via mechanisms such as research grants.  In that example, the notion of information streams comes to play not in the grants themselves, but in the array of grant applications you'll receive as a result of announcing that you're giving money away; the resulting stack of applications allows you to see future trend patterns emerge without having to leave the office.

In his book Weird Ideas that Work, Bob Sutton expresses a similar idea when he suggests using job interviews as a way to gain new information about how the world is working.  Imagine the difference between viewing a lineup of ten job interviews with prospective employees as a task to plow through and seeing each of them as an opportunity to learn something new from a (potentially) interesting person.  All of this is about finding creative ways to put Principle 1 in to action.

I was extremely fortunate to spend four semesters studying with Professor MacCormack at business school.  I learned a tremendous amount from him, and consider Alan a leading researcher in the world of bringing cool stuff to life.  He's a true guru of innovation, and I'm always inspired by his insights.