Innovation — you know it when you see it

Innovation is something you hear a lot about in business — and it’s sometimes hard to define, but you know it when you see it. One of the things I’ve learned from business leaders about innovation is that you can’t force it. Like other business concepts, it needs to come organically by creating the right combination of little things that often are more art than science. There doesn’t seem to be a magic formula of A + B + C = Innovation.

So, in this month’s magazine, it was interesting to hear from several organizations that are leading the way with innovative ideas, products and management concepts.


Sparking creativity

I didn’t go into my interview with Nationwide Insurance President and COO Mark Pizzi thinking about insurance and innovation. I guess I’m guilty of not associating a highly regulated traditional industry with new ideas and methods.

I found out how wrong I was.

One of the surprising things that Pizzi said — which didn’t make it into the story — was about how people view insurance.

He says that one way of bringing insurance into the 21st century is to remind employees about the trend of crowdfunding.

“Insurance is crowdfunding. Insurance is probably the original crowdfunding,” Pizzi says. “But that’s not how people look at it anymore. And so it’s really a matter of helping people understand what insurance really is, why it enables them to do things.”

Taking an old idea and putting it into the language and trends of today gives you new ways of thinking about something that can certainly spark your creativity.


Imitating good ideas

I’m sure we’ve all heard it: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

This month’s Uniquely Columbus features Pelotonia, a grass-roots bike tour where 100 percent of every dollar raised goes to fund cancer research at The Ohio State University.

The event is only five years old, but it has become wildly popular in Central Ohio. I think people like the innovative concept where their fundraising dollars stay local and are only used for research.

In fact, a new event called VeloSano has been created in Northeast Ohio to raise money for cancer research at the Cleveland Clinic.

The event’s website states: “In 2008, The Ohio State University launched a similar effort, Pelotonia, which, after the 2013 ride, will have donated $60 million to the James Cancer Center. These are incredible numbers and an annuity-like model we hope to replicate for Cleveland Clinic.”


Taking it back to your organization

Finally, the innovative manufacturing model at Abrasive Technology Inc. is something you need to read to believe. Loyal “Butch” Peterman and Tanya Patrella, who recently started their own consulting company Manufacturing with Heart Inc., spoke about it at a panel discussion.

What was especially fascinating was how the audience of manufacturers at the discussion had question after question about their methods, which are outside of normal business operating methods. The questioners were asking about specific instances, perhaps in the hopes of hearing something they could use in their own organizations.

I didn’t start out to have a theme of innovation in the August edition, it just bubbled up, giving me the biggest lesson of all — you can find new ideas, products and methods everywhere, so keep your eyes and ears open.