March 15, 2010 | last updated March 24, 2012 10:36 pm

10 Things I Know About... Innovation

Stephen Balzac is president of 7 Steps Ahead in Stow. He is also the author of "The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development," due out from McGraw-Hill in Fall 2010. He can reached at

10. Prioritize
Your goal is to produce innovative products and services that provide value to people. Money is only a way of keeping score.

9. Perspiration, Not Inspiration
Innovation isn't a flash of lightning out of nowhere. It comes from creating the right environment and involves a lot of people. At least put up lightning rods.

8. Forget Perfection
You don't know what a perfect product looks like and neither do your customers. It doesn't need to be perfect. It does need to be good enough to get people excited.

7. Challenge From Within
Your competitors surely won't hesitate to compete with your products and services. If you obsolete your own product, at least you keep the business.

6. Limiting Labels
You define your products, not the other way around. You close off exploration when you say, "We're a training company," or "We're a book company." Apple Computer is now just Apple.

5. Avoid Complacency
The box is always growing. If you want to stay outside the box, you have to keep moving.

4. Keep Learning
Creativity needs fertile soil. You never know where the unexpected connections will be.

3. Trials And Tribulations
If you don't tolerate mistakes, you also don't tolerate learning or innovation. Mistakes are only a problem if you keep making the same ones over and over. Tom Edison learned 1,000 ways to not make a light bulb.

2. Take A Break
The "Eureka!" moment doesn't come when we're exhausted. It comes when we rest and think about something else.

1. Be Patient
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but birth takes time. Nine women can't have a baby in one month. If you wait for a crisis to start building an innovative workforce it'll be too late.


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