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Krishnan on Innovation

Active and Passive Innovators

Are you an active or passive innovator?
Are you exploring or waiting for the alien?

In today’s world everyone wants to innovate. Every board and every Chief executive, indeed every leader says we need to innovate.

Yet few succeed. McKinsey, in a survey of business leaders, found that only 6% of the leaders were happy with their innovation efforts.

We find that there are two approaches organizations take to innovate, I call it passive innovation and active innovation.

A passive innovator realizes the innovation needs, but focuses heavily on the current business. The structure, process and management systems are designed to drive performance in the current quarter and the year in focus. Managers do things that are certain to yield results. Innovations are welcomed and appreciated, but are random efforts dependent on individuals and based on business case that minimize risks.

In such organizations, innovation does happen, but many tend to be incremental. Some of the innovations are attributable to individual brilliance. Fast followers would describe their innovation profile.

On the other hand, active innovators are structured in their approach to innovation. They not only appreciate the need for innovation but are very clear what growth gap requires innovation.

They are able to clearly articulate the innovation vision,

  • Direction of the innovation

  • What are the potential impact

  • Define “how can we” campaign topics

  • Identify stake holders that need to be involved

Active innovators then engage in open innovation, they set up an ideation platform, engage a large and wider network of stakeholders like suppliers, channel partners and customers to contribute ideas. They do this in an environment of build, collaborate and appreciate. They do this by making it easy for everyone to contribute ideas any time (not just in creativity workshops) and set-up digital platforms. They make ideas visible to all, allow people to comment and build / refine other’s ideas.

Active innovators don’t work on just individual ideas, they cluster similar ideas and build superior ideas by combining contributions of many. Each idea cluster is evaluated using a hypothesis that is behind it. They systematically experiment and validate the ideas and generate knowledge from every such experiments. This enables them to build a portfolio of ideas

Active innovators work on a wide portfolio of ideas, some that impact the current business and will contribute immediate profits and growth. Some ideas will be proof of concepts and need more effort at commercialization, they validate customer needs or technological capabilities. They may often require an approach different from the current business model. Some ideas may be futuristic and require long term thinking.

Clearly an active approach is far more effective than a passive approach to innovation.

Here is a doodly video that explains the active innovation concept

Do reach out to me for understanding how you can become an active innovator.

Krishnan Naganathan

Krishnan is a leading innovation consultant and focuses on helping people and organizations innovate and build capabilities for innovation. He brings over 25 years of experience in the industry and consulting.

You can reach him by phone / WhatsApp: +919791033967 or


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