Front-line innovation


Putting a flywheel on a bike to store lost energy? I ride my bike quite a bit, it’s the cheapest and fastest way I can get around town. This is a relatively simple solution for wasted energy of stopping for a red light.

Here’s what I know about innovation. It’s never come out of a big companies R&D department. Professional R&D departments are a waste of corporate dollars largely because there is a tie between desperation and innovation.

There are only 2 reliable sources of innovation, in my experience.

  1. Hungry entrepreneurs – Desperate for their next paycheck, backed against the wall, misunderstood and unappreciated, many of our best inventions came from these people.
  2. Front-line soft innovations – A core problem with companies who fail to create new ideas is that they don’t listen to the people doing the work. They might be friendly with them but they don’t truly listen to the solutions their front-line workers say they need every day.

What does that have to do with you? Everything. Our society is desperate for brand new freshly minted inventions. And those of us who manage people need to develop regular ways to listen to the front-line workers– elevating their ideas to the position where they can create the sof-innovation you need.





4 responses to “Front-line innovation”

  1. M Anthony Aiello Avatar
    M Anthony Aiello

    “Here’s what I know about innovation. It’s never come out of a big companies R&D department.”

    False. See, e.g., graphical user interface (Xerox PARC), iPhone, iPad, …. 

    1. Adam McLane Avatar

      Apple only innovated to the iPhone because they were up against the wall, desperate. All the fan boys claim that they stuck with it through the dark years. What a lie, we all rocked Windows XP because Mac sucked so bad. For Apple, it was innovate or die. 

      BTW- it’s a classic way to dismiss an argument by finding one exception. (I’ve already pointed that your exception may be more proof of my concept that an exception) For all the R&D money spent by corporations… look at how they most often do it in the tech world… they acquire to innovate. That’s been the death of Microsoft. And it’s the beginning of the death of Google. If Apple starts innovating by acquisition, you’ll know they are in trouble. (The primary beef with Siri. Also, iCloud is a poorly done copy of Dropbox.) 

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  3. […] highly experimental or so localized that they might only really work in one place. And many are soft innovations on existing stuff that’s adapted and really seen some traction in ministering to […]

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