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TheStreet Open House

Your Totally Brilliant Idea Isn't Enough For Us

CHICAGO ( TheStreet) -- Change or die: It's the mantra of 21st century business, leading everyone from CEOs to home-office entrepreneurs on a continuous search for the next great idea. In a brutally competitive business environment, companies that don't innovate get left behind.

But innovation takes more than a "eureka" moment. The business world and society at large are traditionally risk averse, more likely to find flaws with a novel idea than celebrate it. True innovation means facing and conquering a gauntlet of hurdles. If you are able to anticipate and prepare for each one, you're more likely to end up with lasting change, rather than concepts that never make it past the conference room.

Innovation takes more than a "eureka" moment, since the business world and society at large are traditionally risk averse.

"We get excited about new ideas, then the world strikes them down," says David Owens, a professor of management and director of the Executive Development Institute at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management. "We end up in organizations that systematically quash creativity."

His own work experiences in the technology design field gave him first-person knowledge of how difficult it can be to bring a product to market successfully; curious about the various ways innovation fails, he began researching the subject. The result is Creative People Must Be Stopped: 6 Ways We Kill Innovation Without Even Trying, which looks at innovation from a macro perspective.

For a promising idea to survive, Owen says, it must overcome six categories of constraints:

1. The individual: Each person within a company must be empowered and encouraged to think creatively.

2. The group: The workplace environment must have processes in place that allow for effective sharing and assessing of ideas.

3. The organization: A promising idea will move forward only if the company as a whole is motivated and has the resources to make it happen.

4. The industry: A product has to pass the innovation test within its industry as a whole. If it doesn't offer something new and valuable to consumers, they won't buy it.

5. The society: Does the product fit with the norms and expectations of society? Just because something is new and unusual doesn't mean it will be embraced.

6. The technology: Will it work? R&D is the unglamorous but critical backbone of any innovation.

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