What is Dynamic Innovation?
Dynamic Innovation is a theoretical framework aimed at helping people navigate the uncertainty of developing new products, services, and technologies. It consists of dynamically iterating between different creative thinking styles known as "directed problem solving" and "emergent problem solving."
Directed Problem Solving
Directed problem solving refers to a traditional version of the creative process that begins with a clearly-defined problem and is followed by a broad search for solutions. A famous example includes the invention of the commercial light bulb by Thomas Edison in 1878. The process began when he identified three clear criteria of success for the project: the bulbs needed to be long-lasting, cheap to produce, and energy efficient. Over the following year, Edison and his team conducted thousands of experiments with various materials and designs until they eventually discovered a winning solution, which was a carbonized bamboo filament in vacuum-sealed glass tube. Research shows between 60–70% of all innovations come from directed problem solving.
Emergent Problem Solving
Emergent problem solving refers to an inverted creative process that begins with a fairly well-developed solution and is followed by a broad search for problems. A famous example includes the invention of the Post-It note at 3M. This process began in 1968 when one scientist accidentally developed a super-weak adhesive and thought it could have valuable commercial applications. He spent the next several years sharing the discovery with his colleagues, famously calling it a "solution looking for a problem." Eventually, another scientist realized the weak adhesive could be applied to a piece of paper to serve as a kind of sticky bookmark for sheet music during his church choir practice—and thus, the idea for the Post-It Note was born. More broadly, research shows between 30–40% of all innovations come from emergent problem solving.
How to Use This Framework
Both directed and emergent problem solving are essential thinking styles for innovation, but they require fundamentally different creative processes, collaboration dynamics, and leadership skills to work effectively. To discover your own creative thinking profile, please take the survey below. For questions on how to apply this framework to your project, team, or organization, please send an email to Prof. Johnathan R. Cromwell.