How Process Drives Reliable Innovation



“Are you a serial idea-starting person? The goal is to be an idea-shipping person.” — Seth Godin

If you want better innovation, focus on the process rather than results.

Is that counter intuitive?

If you want repeatable outcomes, you need a repeatable process.

Innovation involves rapid learning, and without a reliable process, you get random results.  With a reliable process, you can keep moving the ball forward, setting up more chances for brilliance and breakthroughs.

As a leader, you need to spend more time and energy examining how people perform tasks, and how they collaborate as teams, and how the organization, as a whole, operates.
In the book, In the book, Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes, G. Shawn Hunter shares how individuals, teams, and leaders can improve their innovation by focusing on process, not outcomes.

Won’t a Process Stymie Creativity?

When it comes to innovation, people think they “don’t need no stinking process” because it would get in the way of creativity and innovation itself.  According to Mark Hunter, chairman of Innosite, a strategic innovation consulting company, nothing could be further from the truth.

Via Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes:

“The best organizations that implement truly new ideas, especially for creating new growth have a disciplined process for innovation.  Oftentimes it’s a misnomer to think, ‘Well if we have any process to drive innovation, we’re going to stymie creativity,’ but the reality of is, the real innovations that ultimate commercialize products that go to market and create new growth follow a very structured, disciplined process, because it’s not really the lack of good ideas that stymies the ability of an organization to create innovation — to create new growth through innovation — it’s really the shaping process of the organizations to take the idea and do something with it.”

Process is Replicable and Scalable

When you have a process, you can repeat it.  You can scale it.  You can tune it.  You can evolve it.

Via Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes:

“By drawing attention to the steps along the way that garnered a great results, we have the time and awareness to understand, document, and internalize the steps in the process.  This moment of internalizing and sharing what works reinforces a culture that slows down to examine not just the success, but also the milestones along the journey that led to the outcome.”

Process Emphasizes Networks, Not Heroes

Innovation is a team sport, with a  lot of moving parts.

Via Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes:

“A results-only culture can provide too much focus and reward on solo contributors, creating superstars deemed irreplaceable.  Results then can take on a heroic quality.  Instead of understanding the steps and circumstances that led us to another profitable sales cycle, we associate the success with an individual and bestow on him or her a marquee status.  This overvalues the contribution of the individual and de-emphasizes the necessary infrastructure, support processes, and human networks that all contribute to successful results.”

With an Emphasis on Process Comes Integrity

Encourage greatness, not gaming.

Via Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes:

“If it’s the results that count, not how we got there, then we risk inviting unethical behavior to gain the result.  The global financial crisis taught us that predatory lending bankers with little oversight and with quick money as their sole motivation were gleefully willing to game the system to their benefit.  Their profit was at the expense and misery of those baited into borrowing more than they should have, and more than they should on the result, not the system that enabled it to be achieved, we incur the danger of inviting unethical behavior and tactics.”

While serendipity is great, innovation is often a numbers game.  Remember Edison’s words, “”I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work.”

By using a process, you can get up to bat more often, as well as improve your swing along the way.

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Image by Dell Inc.


  1. I agree with this. Instead of solely focusing on achieving an untweakable end goal, I think that it’s more important to have processes that are “Replicable” and “Scalable.” Though the outcome might be a little different from what is intended, the well thought-out processes could lead to outcomes that are more sustainable.

    • Well put and I think sustainability is key, as well as continuous learning.

      The toughest part of innovation is carrying the good forward, while letting the rest go.

      Having a process can help you do just that.

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