As creativity is a key component of innovation, would-be innovators can learn a great deal by studying the skills of an artist. One of the hallmarks of an artist is a keen ability to properly and efficiently utilize resources to create art.
Take a sculptor for example. The sculptor utilizes clay or stone and sculpting tools in an efficient manner in order to create their work of art. The artist knows how much clay to use, when to add clay and what tool to use at just the right time. The result is an innovation in the form of a work of art.
If the innovator is to learn from the sculptor’s example, then consideration must be given to the resources required to bring a desired innovation to life. In thinking about the resources needed for innovation in the framework of an artist’s approach, the following should be considered:
• Determine how big of an idea you need: Just as the sculptor considers how big his sculpture is going to be and gathers his resources accordingly, so must the innovator. If the idea is big, then the quantity of resources must be up to the task. To put this in practical terms, a big idea will require a great many human, financial and time resources. However, not all innovations are the “big idea.” An improvement or useful modification is a smaller idea and therefore requires fewer resources. The key lesson is to match the amount of resources with the size of the idea. Big ideas usually don’t succeed with limited resources and small ideas can prove to be a tremendous waste if they are over-resourced. Deciding how big of an idea you need is the first step toward proper resourcing.
• Determine the tools you will need: A sculptor decides what tools he will need in order to craft his artwork. An innovator must also determine the tools to craft his new idea. In terms of innovation, the tools are likely to be the human resources. Considering the skill sets needed given the type of idea you’re sculpting is important. Equally important is deciding from where the human resources will come. Do you have the people with the skills within your department or within your organization? If not, you will need to look for people and skills outside your organization and consider contributions which can be made by resources such as suppliers, consultants and contract workers.
• Decide if you are designing for a museum or for commercial purposes: An artist knows if he is creating art in the hopes of someday exhibiting it in a museum or if he is creating a piece to be sold to a buyer. The two purposes can be very different. The first is to please the observer and perhaps garner esteem for the artist.
The second is to create revenue and profit. Typically, innovation is designed to be the later. What this means to the artist-cum-innovator is that an idea which won’t sell is a waste of resources. It is misuse of expensive clay and tools, a waste of human, financial and time resources. The lesson is to know your buyer — what they want, how big of a sculpture they need and how much they will pay for it.