The Science Behind Innovation

Martin Reeves, Thomas Fink, Ramiro Palma and Johann Harnoss write in the Sloan Management Review that sustained innovation success “is not the result of artful intuition or heroic vision but of a deliberate search using key information signals.”

A summary:

In an era of low growth, companies need innovation more than ever. Leaders can draw on a large body of theory and precedent in pursuit of innovation, ranging from advice on choosing the right spaces to optimizing the product development process to establishing a culture of creativity.1 In practice, though, innovation remains more of an art than a science.

But it doesn’t need to be.

In our research with the London Institute, we made an exciting discovery. Innovation, much like marketing and human resources, can be made less reliant on artful intuition by using information in new ways. But this requires a change in perspective: We need to view innovation not as the product of luck or extraordinary vision but as the result of a deliberate search process. This process exploits the underlying structure of successful innovation to identify key information signals, which in turn can be harnessed to construct an advantaged innovation strategy.

This research shows it’s possible to have an innovation strategy that is inherently advantaged.

In fact, an innovator following this approach will “appear to be minting its own luck. Such an innovator will typically outperform others that do not use information in the same way.”