Photo Credit Jan Garrison
Doing 'the work' important piece of puzzle
April 27, 2017
Peter Denning

Peter Denning

There are two important statistics innovators need to remember, Prof. Peter Denning told students in The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur. Talking via Skype with students in the Entrepreneurial Studies program, Denning said statistics show why innovative ideas often fail.

The first is that only four percent of proposed innovations actually succeed.

The second is that of the successful four percent, the leaders spent 90 percent of their time on the adoption process and only 10 percent on the invention or innovation itself. Practical experience tell us that without properly following the adoption process, there is no innovation, Denning said.

“Someone has to step forward to do that work,” he explained. Still, it remains a “complete mystery” to most innovators.

That is what led Denning to study the adoption process of innovation and co-author the book The Innovator’s Way: Essential Practices for Successful Innovation. Students from the first two classes of the Entrepreneurial Studies program use the book as a roadmap for their work on group projects that will benefit the Culver community.

Denning told the students they are “engaged in very important work” going through the innovation process on their projects. He said while people focus on the technology side, people learning how to form networks and relationships with others is the most important part. “The information is just a sideshow,” he said.

The groundwork for The Innovators Way started while Denning was teaching a class of engineering graduate students at George Mason University. Most of the students had daytime jobs and they started discussing the problems they were having with time management and why “stupid ideas” were being consistently selected over more innovative ones.

You can’t make an offer without knowing what the other person’s concerns are.

“Why all these problems?” he asked, and no one could answer. So, in 1993, they formed an organization called “Sense 21,” which stood for Common Sense in the 21st Century, and they started looking at the processes involved with the life of engineers. The sessions proved so successful the alumni of that group still meet.

Similar situations have popped up at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., where he is teaching now, and that group has decided to form its own Sense 21 club. The goal is simply to make each individual’s work and life “more satisfying.”

Learning the adoption process is a “learnable skillset,” Denning told the group. Learning effective communication is a key. Most innovation occurs during conversations with others, he said. If you not progressing with the conversation, there is probably a good chance “that you need to change the conversation.”

Often people forget to ask the other party involved what they need or what they see as concerns, he said. “You can’t make an offer without knowing what the other person’s concerns are.”

Also, he added, people focus so much on the technology, they forget that innovation can also occur in practice. “Innovation is the adoption of practice.”

And, as it is in most things, successful innovation occurs when the process is followed. So many people want to start with the idea and jump all the way to the end product, he said. However, innovators – like everyone else – must take it “one step at a time” to be successful.

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Posted in Academic Culver Academies
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