You know how to tell when something is getting exciting? Not when a person first starts writing or talking about it, but when the idea or concept has been completely exhausted and discarded. We are on the cusp of that stage for ideas and concepts around innovation.
Innovation first became "hot" about 5 years ago. Clayton Christiansen and other writers created a lot of stir around the idea of innovation. Just as Chicken Soup for the Soul begat a thousand other Chicken Soup for the lonely housewife and Chicken Soup for the overnight truck driver, so books like The Innovator's Dilemna spawned imitators and copycats. When the books pile up and the handwaving begins, everyone jumps on the bandwagon.
The next phase in the chain will be the realization that we've taken it too far. In the very near future, a book with a title similar to "Innovation for Dummies" or "The culture of innovation: How employees should feel" will be written and published. On that day the tide will turn against all the overindulgence about innovation, and people will turn their attention and publishing dollars to the NEXT BIG THING.
Except that under all that manure generated by all those words, seeds will have been planted and begin to grow, slowly and quietly. In the third phase of any trend, people start actually implementing the ideas in small, unauthorized ways to great gain. We are just on the cusp of this phase with innovation in my opinion.
In the next few years, thousands of small innovation projects inspired by all the latest writings on the subject will spawn new products and new services. Meanwhile, our attention will be turned elsewhere by the latest NEW BEST THING, and these great ideas will germinate and grow while many of us are not paying attention.
I say all this as a warning and an opportunity. Innovation as a publishing idea is close to running its course. When you see Innovation for Dummies or another such book, you'll know the conventional wisdom is ready to pass judgement on innovation. At that point, the pressure will be off and a thousand innovation projects will bloom. And when they do, there's going to be a lot of opportunity to commercialize those new ideas.
Keep your eyes peeled for the publication of "Corporate Empowerment and the Tao of Innovation". Then go find some of those projects that are getting started in little out of the way places in your business.