First of all, Dev Patnaik has a nice post about what empathy has to do with innovation. Dev has seen "companies prosper when they're able to create widespread empathy for the world around them". Empathy is:
the ability to reach outside of ourselves and walk in someone else’s shoes, to get where they’re coming from, to feel what they feel.
And this should be widespread in the organization. People within the company are able to stand in each other's shoes and in the shoes of their customers. They understand what's happening outside and respond to that accordingly. In this way the edges of companies start to blur.
Dev says we're lacking empathy not innovation. This is an interesting point also related to the posts stressing the importance of an innovative culture.
One of the facets of empathy is praising others. Steven DeMaio over at the HBR blog has an interesting post on praising. Praising colleagues for who they are and the work they do fuels creativity and innovation. This is the opposite of the 'idea killers' heard too often in the office...
But how do you organize for innovation. HBR recently (Sept. 2009) ran an interesting article. Actually it's a two page visual showing how Lego organizes to innovate. "Innovating a Turnaround at Lego" tells the story. The core of Lego's turnaround is:
a new structure for strategically coordinating innovation activities, led by a cross-functional team...
The September issue of HBR also ran another interesting article about using 'mass collaboration' and 'open innovation' to find the next big idea at Cisco ("Inside Cisco's search for the next big idea"). I liked it because it shows that 'innovation by mass collaboration' is not a quick win. Cisco is open about how they sift through all the ideas (manually) and judge which ideas are keepers. But even though it is not an easy shot, they stress the results are invaluable.
We learned how people around the world think about Cisco and the markets we ought to be pursuing.
Daydreaming isn’t just the mind’s way of processing information, though.
Other scans have found that the wandering mind also utilizes the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that’s involved in problem-solving.
Now I'm going off daydreaming!