IEEE offers its members a long list of benefits, including insurance plans and career tools, but did you know you also can get a free e-book each month? May’s offering from IEEE-USA is Innovation Conversations—Book 1: The Innovation Process, by William C. Miller. The e-book normally sells for the member price of US $6.39.*
Initially released in 2007, Innovation Conversations was the first book that IEEE-USA published on innovation. “Miller has been an internationally recognized expert on corporate renewal and innovation since the mid-’80s, when he was senior consultant for innovation management at SRI International,” says Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA publishing manager, in Washington, D.C. SRI is an independent, nonprofit research organization in Menlo Park, Calif.
The core of the book centers on a four-stage innovation model called the Creative Journey, which Miller developed:
Stage 1: The challenge (deciding what you wish to accomplish and acknowledging the risks along your path).
Stage 2: The focus (tapping into your source of confidence and prioritizing the issues you need to resolve).
Stage 3: The creative solutions (generating ideas and then deciding on the best solution).
Stage 4: The completion (implementing your solution and celebrating what you accomplished and learned along the way).
For Miller, the Creative Journey offers a framework not just for new ideas but also for maintaining the energy—and mindset—needed to continue innovating.
Yes, You Can
Before you can become an innovator, Miller writes, you need to believe you’re capable of doing so. Innovation depends, he says, on two important principles: All jobs require innovation and anybody can be an innovator or contributor to innovation.
Contributing is an important element of Miller’s book. As he points out, coming up with a creative idea is not enough. Innovation depends on putting original thoughts to work to create change, he says.
Innovations are not just new products or technologies; they can be new processes, business models, or ways to create and manage knowledge and corporate cultures. Innovations vary by how much change they create and the impact they have. High-change innovations generally get the most attention, but even small changes can have a huge impact. For example, Miller recounts a story of a Ford Motor Co. worker who figured out how to shave 10 cents off the cost of each vehicle. That might seem like a small change, but consider how the savings add up given the millions of vehicles Ford produces.
Innovation Is Conversation
Following the Creative Journey model alone is insufficient, Miller says. Innovation also requires conversations—with yourself and with the people around you.
First you must decide what innovation means to you and your work. Often that involves reflecting on how you solved a problem in the past. Miller suggests you ask yourself questions, like What were your goals? and What was at stake? Also ask What was it about you—your values, your experience, your character—that gave you the confidence to think you could solve your problem? Consider, too, the ideas and options you discarded. That can help you understand the thought process behind your decisions.
Remember that innovation does not occur in a vacuum. Bringing aboutchange usually requires teams, goals, an examination of the values at play, and a commitment from all players.
Innovative ideas often meet resistance from the fear of failure or a push not to rock the boat, but Miller outlines several ways to minimize such anxieties.
“As we become more experienced and skilled in the art and discipline of innovation,” Miller writes, “we become more self-confident. We look for opportunities to exercise our innovative muscles. Challenges are more inviting, uncertainties more engaging, and solutions more innovative.”
The book’s final chapters point out that each of us can make a difference. “It’s hard to appreciate the impact of one raindrop until hundreds of thousands of drops start producing a flood,” Miller says. “But it is this awareness that we need to bring to our innovative work, even if we believe we’re only doing a small project for a small business in a small town. In the global age, everything can have an impact.”
Innovation Conversations may be downloaded for free until 31 May using your IEEE Web account. The next free e-book is scheduled to be available 1 June.
*This article has been corrected from the original version.