Why friction is the key to your ability to innovate like Apple

Apple claims innovation is in their DNA, the challenge is focus. The real challenge is friction, and you face the same challenge

How would you respond if someone challenged your ability to innovate? What if your innovation efforts were compared to Apple’s?

Whether you like the products or not, Apple is currently considered a king of innovation. As a leader in innovation, then, their status is a source of constant concern and questioning.

“Has Apple lost it’s innovation edge?”

No surprise this question was asked, again, during the Q1 2014 Financial Results call this week [link].

Making headlines is Tim Cook’s response [link]:

Innovation is deeply embedded in everyone here. So much of the world is filled with complex products. We have zero issue coming up with things we want to do, disrupt in a major way. The challenge is always to focus on the very few that deserves all of our energy. Always done that, and we’ll continue to do that.

Remarkable answer.

Innovation is the focal point for analysts and others. For Tim Cook, however, the challenge isn’t innovation, it’s focusing the energy where is creates the most value.

Cook’s answer also means that the same innovation is possible for your organization, too. Except there is an underlying challenge that needs to be solved first.

Overlooking the not-so-obvious

Ultimately, the key to successful innovation is focusing the energy in the right places. What gets lost in the mix and overlooked is the underlying challenge of friction.

It matters, too, because this applies to more than Apple. Each organization that seeks to transform their practices, increase their influence, and spark innovation has to first take friction out of communication.

Friction wastes energy

The challenge most organizations face is the friction of communication wastes the energy necessary for innovation (and influencing change) among other things.

By learning how to take friction out of communication, organizations free up energy. That energy is then available for innovation, change efforts, and the like.

Without first addressing the underlying friction – and general lack of structure that brings visibility to communication and knowledge work (stay tuned for more on that soon) – companies find their change and innovation efforts thwarted.

Innovation is a product of the process

Taking friction out of communication allows individuals to use reclaimed energy to innovate more freely. Ideas flow easily and information & knowledge is transferred with greater success.

The innovation is a natural part of the process for people freed to focus on solving problems.

Focusing innovation

As Tim Cook pointed out, the key to success is understanding where to place the energy.

Once the friction of communication is addressed, the energy (of innovation) needs to be harnessed and focused on the areas that create the highest value. That requires the ability to create, measure, and effectively communicate value (and that takes more than a blog post to explore).

It’s possible that Steve Jobs was a driving force able to defy friction by sheer presence. Or maybe Apple naturally developed the systems and processes to take friction out of communication.

Either way, when focusing on whether any company can innnovate, the answer is always yes. The real question is if they freed and focused the energy in the right places by taking friction out of communication.

Start with friction and the balance is possible.

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