The Paradox of Innovation from the 30,000-Foot Perspective: It’s About the Journey, Not the Destination

In the C-suites of corporate America, “innovation” has become a mandate. Executives – from CEOs to marketing officers – believe that to innovate is to embrace the Holy Grail of 21st Century business.

But is innovation alone the answer? Is the end – innovation – capable of surviving solely as a mandate?

Or is innovation a process, journey that seeks a destination refined and polished along the way? “Total Innovation” is a sojourn that mandates a total approach philosophy.

However, to create the Culture, foster Ideation and sustain a focus on thoughtful New Product Development, innovation requires a complex combination of and continued adherence to imperatives that must be introduced, embraced and nurtured. Innovation imperatives must start at the top, the CEO. They must be written into the Mission Statements; “Innovation” must have the backing in the strategic plan.

To thrive, Innovation must have the support of long-term growth objectives and capital support. Beyond support, Innovation must gain Inspiration from leadership, who will create and foster a Culture of innovation and motivate the organization. Leadership must acknowledge the role of Risk, and understand the possibility and benefits of failure.

For without such inspiration and continued communication, Innovation will not survive. It will become little more than a once-promising concept left to wither on the vine of fanciful corporate initiatives that never quite took root.

Therein lies the paradox of innovation. Companies cannot succeed without innovation. Yet few executives understand how to introduce, nurture, or capitalize on the promise of innovation within the organization.

Planned well, the Imperative of Innovation can impact the New Product Development process. It can encourage fertile Ideation, welcoming input from associates to customers and users alike. It feeds the machine, providing methods of collecting, vetting, ranking and considering the Next Big Idea or future new products or processes.

The Innovation Imperative insists on Ownership and Accountability. It requires a Champions – and Chief Innovation Officer, if you will – be named to oversee teams Trained, coached and mentored to shepherd projects through the system, all the while adhering to each Imperative.

The Imperative requires Observation and Measurement of performance and results to ensure they deliver Net Result and Reward, and that they meet or remain focused upon an established set of objectives – and those involved are recognized accordingly.

Ultimately, innovation done well leads to Value Creation – for the organization, its stake holders and customers.

To learn more, visit see or look for “”Robert’s Rules of Innovation ™” by Wiley, March, 2010
Robert F. Brands is President and founder of