Innovating has never been easy. However, today that basic difficulty seems to be multiplied as the speed at which technologies and business models are advancing grows exponentially. Companies are forced to devote much more time and resources to innovation than they used to, and are constantly looking for strategies and methods that can accelerate and streamline innovation processes.
But is there a secret recipe for successful innovation?
There are no simple answers to this question. However, it has been researched that a number of elements can foster the development of new and successful ideas.
Essential is to promote the exchange of ideas with the outside world. There are several examples in the history of management of companies that invented a revolutionary product, but were not able to make it successful and were supplanted by competitors who had simply 'copied' the idea and managed it better. This explains how important it is to be alert to everything that happens outside one's own organisation and to how the market and the world around it changes, ready to seize any stimulus that might translate into commercial success. Today, this trend is so widely shared that it has led to the creation of innovation platforms, through which networks of scientists and engineers, even from different companies, exchange ideas and solutions.
Another important aspect is to create an environment that encourages people to collaborate. Today, the complexity of human knowledge and the increasing difficulty of the problems we face require many people working together. One hundred years ago, the Wright brothers were able to build an aeroplane by themselves; today, it takes hundreds of engineers to build an aircraft. A study carried out at Northwestern University, analysing more than 20 million scientific articles and more than two million patents, found that, while in the last 50 years of the 20th century the most successful ones were the result of a solitary genius, today the opposite is true: independent publications with more than 100 citations published by teams of scientists are 6 times higher than those by single authors.
The most innovative companies are those where there is diversity, but not too much. A study by the Kellog Business School correlated the composition of teams of performers who staged Broadway musicals with the success of their shows: the greatest success was achieved when the group was made up of a mix of people who had worked together before and strangers. 2] Disagreement, conflict or simply a different point of view, if properly managed and channelled, helps to improve one's work.
Physical proximity to colleagues can also foster innovation. A Harvard Medical School study showed that out of a sample of scientific articles analysed, the most successful ones were those whose authors sat closest to each other. The organisation of office space must therefore encourage frequent and spontaneous interaction between colleagues.
It is essential to lay the foundations for an environment that stimulates and revives creativity. Creativity is indispensable in today's company, because it is rare and indispensable for finding new answers to the problems we face. In a world where technologies are so powerful, what makes the difference is not the ability to do calculations quickly - which any computer can do - but the peculiar and exclusive characteristic of the human being: creativity. Studies have shown that around 98% of children between the ages of 3 and 5 think in a "divergent" way; this percentage drops to 32% in the 8-10 age group, and then again to 10% between the ages of 13 and 15. Only 2% of people over the age of 25 use 'lateral thinking' to disentangle themselves from complex situations. This means that creativity is a skill that all human beings possess, but it is gradually lost as we grow up, because in order to survive we tend to conform to the behaviour of those around us. Giving employees the opportunity to cultivate their own interests and passions reactivates this powerful ability and keeps it in training.
Finally, innovation can only come when people have time to reflect: if staff are constantly busy solving contingent issues, they will never be able to find alternative and therefore innovative answers. An innovating company must therefore be able to allow its employees to take their time.
 Jones, Benjamin F., and Mohammad Ahmadpoor. 2019. Decoding Teams: Team Output and Individual Productivity in Science and Invention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116(28): 13885-13890.
 Uzzi B. and Spiro J., 2013. Collaboration and Creativity: The Small World Problem1, https://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/faculty/uzzi/ftp/uzzi%27s_research_papers/0900904.pdf
 Harvard Medical School, Close Proximity Leads to Better Science, 15/12/2010, https://hms.harvard.edu/news/c... di copertina da: