We often hear this phrase “art and science” of innovation. Indeed there are now many efforts reported globally that are dedicated to the concept. While these efforts are laudable in themselves and represent the finest in human spirit and efforts to join forces for the betterment of all, the phrase remains confusing and somewhat empty in the everyday life of the working professional. This includes those who consider innovation as the major part of their workday as well as the vast majority of us who focus mostly on more directed problem solving as part of a larger project or effort. In this article I set forth a few simple ways to view the phrase that can help each innovation professional adopt a view to the art and science of innovation that helps them most develop as a practitioner in their field and as an individual.
First let’s get the artist as project team member off the table. As Reiger (2015) points out most such efforts result in disappointment to both scientist and artist. It is not that such collaborations cannot work but that they work best in certain circumstances, which tend to be difficult to define and require a very open thought process and the time to allow for news ways of thinking and approaches to problems and/or challenges. This hardly describes the daily grind of most working professionals with constant deadlines, lack of resources and unreasonable demands.
In addition both the word art and the word innovation lack conclusive definitions that allow for clear communications. But there is a concept with a definition that works better for the working professional and that is to think of the practice of innovation as an “art form”. We often see the words “art form” applied to such different activities as martial arts, dance, architecture, etc. A quick glance of a dictionary shows the definition of art form to include the phrase ”an undertaking or activity enhanced by a high level of skill and refinement”. I content that this definition works to describe the person who practices the art and science of innovation.
The early stages of a product’s life cycle, when the early ideas for some useful device or service are forming along with possible offerings, offers the best time for the art and science to co-exist as a highly refined discipline. One definition of art is “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination” which certainly applies to these early stages, and this will have the greatest positive effect when combined with the science of innovation to direct those skills and imagination toward viable, useful and hopefully profitable results.
This is where the innovation professional displays his/her true value to the effort by having the background, skills and refined sense of the possible, combined with the discipline of the problem solving sciences, to create the most desirable outcome. Innovation professionals are foremost in bringing that critical aspect of creativity to their organizations, projects, teams and their own development.
Reckhenrich, Kupp & Anderson (2009) stated “if creativity is to add value to the organization, managers first have to understand the principles of creativity as well develop the mindset, attitude and knowledge of where, when and how creativity will emerge in order to find new solutions”(p.69). This activity is the “art form” that innovation professionals must develop and practice until it become that high level skill.
So now what can the working professional do to help develop their skills and develop that all important mindset? The concept of the science of innovation, which includes the art form concept, creativity, problem solving and business acumen is the basis for the IAOIP professional society. Through education, certification, exchanges with association members, attendance at global meetings the working professional can expand his/her knowledge, be exposed to difference ideas and approaches, learn what has worked and why and have their own ideas reviewed and exchanged with others. The key word from the definitions above is “conscious” development.
The concept of an art form implies practice, lots and lots of practice. In addition it carries with it the need for conscious review of that practice to determine what is working, or not, and above all why is it so. Then the working professional corrects and redirects their efforts to improve both themselves and the projects they touch.
Good luck as you develop your own “art form” in the practice of the art and science of innovation.
Reiger, C. (2015) Art + Science = Magic (or Not?). Retrived September 10, 2016 from
http://www.artpractical.com/feature/art-science- magic-or- not/
Reckhenrich, J., Kupp, M., & Anderson, J. (2009). Understanding creativity: The manager as artist.
Business Strategy Review, 20(2), 68-73.