Can Innovation Be Standardized? (ISO 56007 Development, Part 1)

Lightbulb above the ISO 56007 working group as they develop the international standard for innovation management.

The 56007 working group for the ISO standard on innovation idea management is dealing with three questions. How do you standardize innovation idea management?  What is a standard on innovation idea management supposed to look like? And can you be innovative while creating a standard on innovation? The following are some thoughts about this ongoing challenge.

Each of these questions battles the conventional wisdom around ideation to the forefront. Each question is entrenched in potential groupthink constructed by opposing philosophies and work experiences—the consultant mind versus the academic mind for example. All these ideas and approaches are mixed together in a morass inside a global community of perspectives from various volunteers. These conflicting ideas stew in a quicksand of theories from highly regarded book authors, academics journals, TED Talks, consulting decks, and white papers that contradict each other on further inspection. This leads us to the first question.

How do you standardize innovation idea management?

Conventional wisdom, general news articles, and most thought pieces around innovative ideas suggest some kind of light-bulb moment. It is a meme: the entrepreneur or tinkerer is in the bath or shower and bang-zoom they get an idea. Yet, if we look at the work of Genrich Altshuller on TRIZ methodology or Prince & Gordon’s Synectics, there are actually very prescribed ways to generate ideas. So, while many believe ideas are created by indescribable moments of genius, others believe it can be sparked by precise self-described processes. These are just two examples; there is also Alex Osbournes’ SCAMPER approach to Brainstorming, Rolf Faste’s Design thinking, and many others. With so many methods of generating ideas, do you pick and choose? Do you offer a smorgasbord? Is one better than another?  This is just creation, what of selection or development?

This brings us to the second question:

What does a standard in innovation idea management even look like?  

Is this a guidance or a prelude to an auditable certification? ISO 56007 could be both, but in the nurture and germination phase, one tack would be instructive. If guidance, then broad sweeps of the idea innovation smorgasbord seem adequate. Just stay within the size of the prescribed lengths and cut or dismiss trivial elements that don’t fit. But if ISO 56007 relates to certification, should it include the open-source Kickbox or Alexander Brem’s Funnel? On what criteria would the reader or user of the standard apply one versus the other? How do you select one method over another from the dozens of methods identified by the ISO 56007 working group? Since the intended audience matters, this begs the question: who will benefit?

If the ISO 56007 standard will act as guidance for larger organizations, then research shows that parts of the process should be outsourced. But the ISO 56007 working group is being careful to not exclude small or medium businesses or entrepreneurs. But if the ISO 56007 standard is designed for certification, then how would you ascertain correct implementation of a dozen or half dozen methodologies? The design of the document must balance both the science of idea generation with the practicality of guiding an organization with basic viewpoints of best practices with a sensitivity of criteria for specific audiences. This is a daunting task which leads to the final question:

Can you actually be innovative while creating an innovation standard?

There are various dynamics involved in creating an idea innovation standard. Motivating volunteers in virtual environments to work on a large, vague, and amorphous concepts with contradictory perspectives is difficult. Just the massive quagmire of academic and business articles alone is in the thousands. How do we increase productivity and decrease attrition with such obstacles in an innovative way? Could you use a Deming approach? Could AI help? Is it possible to use machine learning in PDSA cycles to spur rough drafts?

It turns out yes, AI can be used in several ways. In tackling “Blank Page Syndrome” or “Writer’s Block” AI has aided the ISO 56007 working group in creating innovative ways to approach the problem. How do you find an expert on the team in CX or innovation cultural killers, AI is being used to tackle that as well. And how do you harness the thousands of articles on innovation? We are using an AI powered assistant. But before we go any further, the solution of using AI to spur, manage, and execute on creative activity will be featured in the next post on the development of ISO 56007 idea innovation standard.

Guest Contributor: Christopher David Kaufman

Christopher David Kaufman is an author, researcher, and practitioner in technology innovation and sales transformation. He is currently working on his doctorate at the Vanderbilt in organizational management and learning systems. He is the co-chair of the Idea innovation management working group for the ISO 56007 standard.

His work focuses on how to utilize the latest research and technology to transform sales operations into innovation machines that propel the organization. He has worked as a software developer, entrepreneur, VP of sales, executive sales trainer, sales consultant, and chief strategist for a fortune 100 firms. He has authored books and created patented technologies.

To learn more how you can help define how the world innovates ideas, you can reach him at or on .

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