Flevy Blog is an online business magazine covering Business Strategies, Business Theories, & Business Stories.

The “Secret Sauce” of Creativity and Innovation

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Design Thinking (225-slide PowerPoint presentation). [NOTE: Our Design Thinking presentation has been trusted by an array of prestigious organizations, including industry leaders such as Apple, MIT, NASA, Ford, Boeing, Fujitsu, Syngenta, Palo Alto Networks, and Mercer, to name just a few.] Design Thinking is [read more]

Also, if you are interested in becoming an expert on Innovation Management, take a look at Flevy's Innovation Management Frameworks offering here. This is a curated collection of best practice frameworks based on the thought leadership of leading consulting firms, academics, and recognized subject matter experts. By learning and applying these concepts, you can you stay ahead of the curve. Full details here.

* * * *

THE MARTIANA few years ago, Kaggle, an online community of data scientists, posted a problem that was sponsored by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society. These agencies needed a new mathematical algorithm capable of parsing the distortions caused by dark matter in the photographic images of galaxies.

Just ten days after this problem was posted, Martin O’Leary, a Cambridge University Ph.D. student who had zero background in astronomy or space science, submitted an algorithm that turned out to be considerably more predictive than what was already in use.  O’Leary was studying to be a glaciologist, and his formula was based on techniques developed to map glaciers from satellite images.

Shortly after O’Leary’s posting a graduate student in computer vision, again with absolutely no astronomical background, posted a different algorithm that boosted accuracy even more. And almost simultaneously after this a mostly non-astronomical university team from Australia and Qatar improved on the algorithm again.

As the Kaggle website says, this process was “illustrative of why competitions are successful: They encourage people who would normally focus on specific problems in one field to apply their techniques to analogous problems in new fields.”

Competitions like this take advantage of what is probably the single most important ingredient of creativity – the “secret sauce” that powers nearly all innovation: diverse perspectives. Whenever you have a creative idea yourself, it’s almost always the result of combining multiple perspectives in your own mind. Something that makes sense in one area is applied or tweaked until it makes sense in another area, as well.

A great deal of individual creativity is fueled through social connections, because the more diverse your connections with other people are, the more likely you are to encounter those “Eureka!” moments. People who are connected to diverse groups of others often seem to be teeming with creative new ideas, in fact. But, as Clay Shirky put it in his book Here Comes Everybody,

This is not creativity born of deep intellectual ability. It is creativity as an import-export business.

Exactly. Creativity is an exercise in the import and export of perspectives, from one venue or domain to another. Over and over.

Indeed, the fact that computer technology connects us all so much more efficiently today means that we have much more latent creativity to be harnessed. We can combine and compare our different individual points of view and frames of reference more efficiently than ever. And this, of course, fuels the accelerating pace of technological change, which means that creativity and innovation become even more crucial.

So if your company needs to break out of its old ways of thinking, if you simply your people to be more creative and innovative, the fastest route to this result is to set up situations where employees can tap the combined creative powers of other employees, customers, and people.

You need to create a culture of innovation that thrives on dissent, contrary points of view, connections made with diverse perspectives, and respectful disagreement. Employees must trust each other to the extent they feel free to disagree, but they do so respectfully. It’s the only way to ensure that the pace of innovation at your firm keeps you ahead of the pack, supplying your company with more useful innovations, faster, than your R&D department would be able to manage by itself.

It won’t be easy, but the alternative is obsolescence, which these days will sneak up on you faster than you can text “OMG.”

35-slide PowerPoint presentation
A systematic Innovation process allows an organization to clearly understand who its customers are, their unmet needs, needs to be targeted, product positioning, and new products to be developed. This presentation highlights the Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) approach. ODI is a [read more]

Want to Achieve Excellence in Innovation Management?

Gain the knowledge and develop the expertise to become an expert in Innovation Management. Our frameworks are based on the thought leadership of leading consulting firms, academics, and recognized subject matter experts. Click here for full details.

To be competitive and sustain growth, we need to constantly develop new products, services, processes, technologies, and business models. In other words, we need to constantly innovate.

Ironically, the more we grow, the harder it becomes to innovate. Large organizations tend to be far better executors than they are innovators. To effectively manage the Innovation process, we need to master both the art and science of Innovation. Only then can we leverage Innovation as a Competitive Advantage, instead of viewing Innovation as a potential disruptive threat.

Learn about our Innovation Management Best Practice Frameworks here.

Readers of This Article Are Interested in These Resources

159-slide PowerPoint presentation
This presentation is a compilation of PowerPoint diagrams and templates used to convey 36 different innovation management frameworks, models and methods. (Please note that the materials are meant to be used to supplement your own business or classroom presentations. These slides may not be [read more]

16-slide PowerPoint presentation
116-slide PowerPoint presentation

About Don Peppers

Recognized for more than 20 years as one of the world's foremost thought leaders on customer-focused business strategies, Don Peppers is an acclaimed author, speaker, and a founding partner, with Martha Rogers, Ph.D., of Peppers & Rogers Group, a leading customer-centric management consulting firm. In 2015, SatMetrix ranked Don and Martha as the world’s #1 most influential authorities on customer experience management. Don is a world class speaker who presents on a broad range of strategic topics across a wide variety of industries. And, as a top 100 “Influencer” on LinkedIn, Don has more than 260,000 followers for his regular blog posts on innovation, technology, customer experience, and corporate culture. You can connect with Don on LinkedIn here.

, ,

Complimentary Business Training Guides

Many companies develop robust strategies, but struggle with operationalizing their strategies into implementable steps. This presentation from flevy introduces 12 powerful business frameworks spanning both Strategy Development and Strategy Execution. [Learn more]

  This 48-page whitepaper, authored by consultancy Envisioning, provides the frameworks, tools, and insights needed to manage serious Change—under the backdrop of the business lifecycle. These lifecycle stages are each marked by distinct attributes, challenges, and behaviors. [Learn more]

We've developed a very comprehensive collection of Strategy & Transformation PowerPoint templates for you to use in your own business presentations, spanning topics from Growth Strategy to Brand Development to Innovation to Customer Experience to Strategic Management. [Learn more]

  We have compiled a collection of 10 Lean Six Sigma templates (Excel) and Operational Excellence guides (PowerPoint) by a multitude of LSS experts. These tools cover topics including 8 Disciplines (8D), 5 Why's, 7 Wastes, Value Stream Mapping (VSM), and DMAIC. [Learn more]
Recent Articles by Corporate Function






The Flevy Business Blog (https://flevy.com/blog) is a leading source of information on business strategies, business theories, and business stories. Most of our articles are authored by management consultants and industry executives with over 20 years of experience.

Flevy (https://flevy.com) is the marketplace for business best practices, such as management frameworks, presentation templates, and financial models. Our best practice documents are of the same caliber as those produced by top-tier consulting firms (like McKinsey, Bain, Accenture, BCG, and Deloitte) and used by Fortune 100 organizations. Learn more about Flevy here.

Connect with Flevy:


About Flevy.com   /   Terms   /   Privacy Policy
© . Flevy LLC. All Rights Reserved.