Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – In much the way mathematics has evolved and been passed on from generation to generation, so has the practice of innovation, says Dana Clarke, chairman, president and CEO of Applied Innovation Alliance LLC.

The company’s primary goal is to promote the advancement and practical application of “structured innovation.”

“Innovation will become a business discipline; it will become structured; and it will become pervasive,” Clarke predicts in a presentation at the Management Briefing Seminars here. “It will be no different than mathematics.”

Clarke and his team have passed along their philosophies to a variety of businesses, including aerospace firms, chemical companies and the automotive industry.

Innovation is one of the more popular buzzwords today, but defining the term and teaching it and effecting change has proven elusive.

But, Clarke claims, innovation can be taught, much like any other discipline.

“For hundreds of years, we’ve been studying mathematics and translating it into courses and education,” he says. “Innovation. Who was your teacher? That’s the problem. “Historically, we did not have structure. So today as we start to build this structure, we’re working on the next legacy for innovation.”

How to define and teach the practice of innovating is not as difficult as it may sound, Clarke maintains. In fact, companies need only look to the past to learn how to be innovative.

“Over the last six years, individual researchers have tried to figure out how to innovate and what was it (innovators did),” he says. “It’s about the history of technology, a rich foundation of knowledge of how people have solved problems.

“All we have to do is extract information from these different areas and put it into a context that can be transferred and used inside companies,” Clarke says, adding that once innovation practices are put into a truly structured form, they will be easy to teach.

“(Structure) implies we need a common language, have processes and tools, and that it can be delivered by individuals and teams,” he says. “It needs to apply to all areas of business. It needs to raise us to new levels of decision-making. And it has got to be measurable.

“That’s the type of structure that will allow corporations to deliver better results,” Clarke says.

bpope@wardsauto.com