The Four Moments of Corporate Innovation

Afzal Ibrahim
10 min readJan 10, 2020

The fast pace of the world today demands a faster adaptation to all of us. We’re used to thinking that it’s the economics that sets this fast tempo in an ever-growing necessity to circulate the money and extend profits and efficiency.

Yet, it’s also the rapid evolution of technology, the growth of the human population and expanding and diversification of social structures that impose new trends of the market.

As such, companies have to constantly keep a step ahead.

With the rising competition on all levels and the emergence of more and more disruptive start-ups, corporate innovation has become a key component of economic survival.

Image copyright — Neocha — Culture & Creativity

Forecasting the future of economics and developing processes to tune the company for the trends to come is the steady strategy of the past century that is slowly but surely becoming incompatible with the way things are unrolling today.

Because tomorrow comes with a whole new definition of reality that could very well be old news for the next day.

In this context, flexibility is what truly makes a difference.

In other words, the capacity to adapt and restructure the organizing scheme of a company is what maintains its place in the market.

The equation that translates this theory in simple terms is: predict less, experiment more.

Image copyright — Gregology

Innovation is all about experimentation.

But the freedom of the creation process is something that usually comes in conflict with the internal scheme of a big corporation that relies its good functioning on tons of papers stating the precise procedures to be followed in any case scenario.

You can imagine how this type of disruptive style of business can easily provoke a massive mess out of a classical, fixed corporate model.

Which is the very reason, corporations realized that they have to adopt this flexible attitude or else they would fail to keep the pace and cease to exist, and to implement innovation strategies into their core departments.

The goal became to maintain the position through constantly innovating in their niche, as well as extending their activity to other connected branches of industry.

It didn’t take long to understand that innovation cannot be a quest for the existent set-up of the functioning of a company and that a special department or a collaboration with a start-up that offers this service, is needed.

Too much hassle would incur if employees from sales, for example, would occupy their time thinking or contradicting on whether their pillows manufacturing company should change its goose feather filling. This would obviously be ineffective.

For this reason, special innovation labs have been organized within the corporation or externally contracted to support the constant pressure to adapt to the ever-shifting coordinates of the market.

The four key moments of any creative process

Corporate innovation, like any corporate job, has its side of a boring technicality that, nonetheless, you have to keep under a leash such as not to kill the creative enthusiasm.

A flamboyant innovation theater is not the innovation department.

The innovation department is an implementation center where all rules are bent, where the experiment is the fundamental principle of action, and originality has the potency of an evolutionary leap as much as of a dramatic failure.

In the kingdom of creators and free minds, it all looks extremely appealing, almost playful, when you view it all from the exterior. But once you step inside, the raw truth is revealed.

What you fancied to be an outrageously fun job description, is, in fact, a task that comes with a lot of responsibility, a process of trial and error, and ultimately a great amount of analysis.

Being part of this process for long, we’ve spotted four relevant moments that any creative process has to go through, and these are fundamental to the accomplishment of the overall project.

The DULL moments..

What could be dull in a process that seems so entertaining?

An idea just remains an idea, unless you convert it to a pragmatic one.

Nonetheless, this is precisely what any type of creative task demands at one point, as the analysis part with countless suppositions and the subsequent demonstration of their flaws, followed by a rerun of this whole sequence, over and over again until you hit the jackpot.

It all translates into a relentless iteration up to the moment when the idea reveals its practical expression clearly, with all its steps and implications.

You can imagine what a blissful moment that is.

Realizing that you’ve come to an end with inquiring and evaluating, concluding that, yes, you have come up with a good idea. Indeed, your concept works as a solution or improvement towards the company’s competitive advantage, and you are allowed to respite, relieved at last.

But is it good, good enough?

As you might expect, the answer is, of course, no.

Good is never great and great is what any innovator is searching for. Those dull moments reside in the gap between GOOD and GREAT

You could say that this comes with the job description, but it is rather the nature of the innovator, in this case, who will not be satisfied with merely ‘acceptable’ and will always aim for the stars.

For once, aiming high is the strategy to adopt such as to promote evolution.

You must know very well that this is true for any type of task if you’re aiming lower than that will be the point you’ll reach and be satisfied for a while, whereof when you aim high, you most probably reach a higher stage and keep working to become better and better.

The same thing happens with a good idea. Even if your reason tells you that it is good enough, your tendency will be to dismiss it and search further for that spark of genius.

When we’re talking about corporate innovation projects ‘good enough’ is what will maintain the company’s presence in the market, whereof ‘great’ will ensure a competitive advantage as it will predict a future trend.

Any creative process is an emotional activity because you get attached to the idea you produce, and it becomes difficult to be flexible when you confront it with the analysis results.

The journey from good to great needs a significant number of iterations. It becomes daunting and challenging.

As of this reason, the challenging process of iteration marking the work from good to great is mandatory, for without it the idea will not be an innovation, but nothing more than a suitable solution.

The magnitude of perseverance during this phase of creation has a significant role in the success of your product.

The DIRTY moments..

The work of the innovator is not an elegant or fancy director’s job who points his finger and gives instructions to his subordinates from the top of his majestic throne.

On the contrary, getting your hands dirty is unavoidable when you’re innovating.

You are not only advancing ideas, possible solutions for others to try out and see their outcome, but you are also the one who works the creative dough with his own hands.

In other words, simply drawing out a strategy to solve the problem is never enough, for the theory has to go through analysis, and, as we’ve stated earlier, through the troublesome, dull road from good to great.

This road is paved with question marks, with hopes and enthusiasm, and with a lot of conflicting thoughts and emotions.

It all looks like a chaotic soup from which you have to pick up the pieces and blend them till they become a solid structure.

But if we look at the birth of our universe we understand the meaning and importance of the primordial chaos out of which stars and planets, and ultimately, life, were born. The primordial chaos is the ocean of infinite potentiality out of which things pop up in existence.

The same dynamic defines any process of creation, in which the un-manifested potential lies dormant along with all possible versions of the particular idea and becomes manifested in the right moment when it finds the perfect form to embody.

Thus birthing an idea can be a nasty job, swimming through dirt to find that brilliant jewel that you to bring to life.

This dirty stage of creation is filled with unnerving emotions, with frustration, anxiety and fury, because chaos lacks the stable structure of a well-defined process that is conferring trust and balance.

But it is specifically the interplay between the unpredictable waves of raw visions and their polished form as functional ideas, which is necessary for innovation to take place.

The DEXTEROUS moments..

Dexterity is an ability that we all have to develop nowadays to manage the challenges of our escalating lives or better said, to find the balance between the dirty work and the structures we need to create.

The multitude of tasks and the systems that are necessary to get them all flowing orderly is a work of dexterity.

Of course, we are not literally getting our hands dirty anymore in our mechanized environments where everything is digitally set up to function, but it is the dexterity of the mind that has to come into play.

Image courtesy — Thesaurus.Plus

When we refer to corporate innovation, being dexterous is a must as one has to consider almost all organizational dynamics to come up with an advantageous plan, from a competitive service or product to a perfect positioning in the market and, not lastly, to ensure sustainability.

Such a process demands the innovator to slide from the creative work and, for example, think about the security measures that a corporate system has to create in order to protect the company from threats, hacks, and errors.

This type of divergent thinking about all aspects of a problem is what being dexterous means.

In neuroscientific terms, dexterity is the capacity to rewire your mental patterns, unlearning old processes and curving such as to learn new ones.

Switching your preset perspective is not an easy demand, but our brains are designed to avoid hazards and act towards the end goal and the promised reward. This action requires openness for receiving new input and focus to maintain our direction.

It’s almost like pausing for a moment to meditate and rising above the issue at hand to be able to view its complex implications and its role in the grander global dynamics.

For a more in-depth outlook into the dexterity of the mind check out this article

The DEAR moments..

The spark of genius that powers an idea to life is just the start of an entire process.

If the outcome is merely success and the satisfaction of personal interests, then the work done cannot be considered evolutionary or sustainable, which are the two important values describing the innovation.

Corporate innovation is as much about revolutionizing the management and values of a company such as to position itself in the future trends by actually foreseeing and setting them, as it is about contributing to a better world.

The beautiful outcome of a genius idea is that it works in the service of the community.

The Dear moment of accomplishment survives once you’ve developed a business innovation that contributes to the sustainability and improvement of our human society.

It is not only about gratifying our innate altruistic tendencies but, in fact, it’s a precondition for the thriving of a company.

Dear is the engagement to prosper along with everybody else, in a mission of supporting human growth and not taking advantage of it.

Innovation became the standard of corporate bloom

Closing thoughts..

Creativity isn’t about a new age, hipster, or beatnik look or lifestyle; you don't have to don a new personality or even learn a fine art to be creative.

Creativity is inherent in all of us, from the dentist that designs a perfect a new smile to the house movers that know just where to put furniture to a space beautiful

We’re all creative, it’s just some of us earn our living by being so — John Hegarty, Hegarty on Advertising

What makes a difference is to develop an iterative and persistent attitude that is able to bend in order to welcome new dynamics is the manner in which a company can maintain its place in a fluctuating market.

As we’ve seen so far, more than this, the corporation has to adopt civic engagement as a principle of functioning — a culture of experimentation, a dogma to follow beyond financial success.

Only this way, will any corporations be able to keep the pace of the ever-shifting social architecture.



Afzal Ibrahim

Tech, Design, and Art — love’em all. Just out here exploring new ideas and sharing what I learn with y'all. Curator at