Alberto Perez, affectionately known as Beto, was a popular aerobics instructor in Colombia, who rocked up to his busy class one day only to find that he had forgotten his music. Thinking on the spot he went to his car and retrieved the sexy Latin music he had in his CD player and adapted the routines to the hot Salsa, Cumbia and Merenge rhythms.

The result: ZUMBA – a multi-million dollar enterprise that over the last ten years has spread across all continents and has revitalised the fitness class industry.

Innovators are not always the white-coated, single-minded scientists supported by funding bodies to create breakthroughs in their various fields.

Sometimes innovation happens through a totally unplanned, unforeseen and ‘in-the-moment’ connection of a product or idea that is waiting to manifest and a mind that is open and receptive.

Sometimes, the innovation is not even related to the field the innovator is active in and it is fuelled by dissatisfaction and accident.

Take Chester Carlson. Who gave us the Xerox machine. From a young age he was fascinated by all things printed; however he studied physics and later patent law. During his legal studies he grew impatient with hand copying the documents he needed so he turned to his earlier passion and after many experiments and trials he invented the photocopier.

Likewise, sculptor Ladislao Biro is less remembered for his sculptures than for the creation of the ball point pen; J.B. Dunlop the creator of the pneumatic tyre was a vet.

However, while there will always be the Edisons and the Zuckerbergs, innovation is largely a focused, encouraged and nurtured effort within or without an organisation.

Our inspiring friends at New & Improved, a leading innovation consultancy company in the US, write a regular newsletter on innovation.

According to them there are 10 main drivers of innovation in an organisation – I have summarised them here:

  1. Individual – they are the basic building block of innovation;
  2. Team – individuals do not usually have the range of skills needed to make innovation happen;
  3. The enterprise – to keep innovation teams from getting stuck in ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ thinking;
  4. Processes – always aim to improve these at all levels: individual, team and enterprise;
  5. Offering – to view innovation as more than ‘product’. Equally important are innovative business models, alliances, processes;
  6. Psychological climate – what’s going on in the mind of the individual?
  7. Physical environment – everyone has different needs around this, and it has a huge impact on innovation;
  8. Organisational culture – what does the leadership of the organisation uphold as success? This matters;
  9. Economic climate – not too much fear and not too much confidence – this is the ideal balance for thriving innovation;
  10. Geopolitical culture – what cultural strengths can I leverage and which cultural weaknesses do I need to overcome?

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