Coaching for Innovation

There are many innovation and product development experts around now.  It was this realization — that the field of innovation had reached a point of maturity — that led Robin Karol and me to write New Product Development for Dummies (Wiley, 2007).  Then why would a company with internal innovation expertise need to hire a consultant?  Because working with a partner can open up insights and perspectives that even the most knowledgeable can be blind to.

In working with clients I have often played the role of an innovation coach.  Many of my clients are experts in product development and innovation who want support in solving the variety of issues that this field confronts us with. The issues have included teaching innovation practices within the organization, planning and executing a project (for example, to gather customer information or map technologies), improving leadership and team practices, and building support for effective innovation practices across the functions and levels of the organization.

What is coaching?  It is an activity that enables players to make the most of their talents and skills, to build new skills when they need them, and in most sports, to play successfully with others.  When I first heard the word “coaching” used outside of athletics it was a coinage — my teachers, among them Fernando Flores, Julie Manga, and James Flaherty, were exporting the word to describe something they thought would be valuable in the arena of business success.

As an innovation consultant I have used my background in coaching to good effect.  I always seek to discover the strengths of my clients and to nudge them into directions that will draw on those strengths.  At the same time,  I look for gaps in their repertoire and help to fill them with explicit teaching and, more often, design experiences that will lead to greater understanding and expertise.

As an innovation coach, I bring years of experience in innovation and product development together with skills in coaching and facilitation. If you want help in shaping a new innovation project, if you would like to improve existing processes, if you’d like support as you work through a project, I am ready to help.