Like the weather, many people talk about innovation but few managers do much about it. Unlike the weather, there is a lot managers can and must do about innovation – especially in difficult times. Innovation often falls into the same trap as strategic planning, economic forecasting, and change management. There is no orderly path that can be planned in advance. The best new products, services, or methods often come from the wrong people, at the wrong time, in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons.

Rick Spence is a Toronto-based writer, speaker, and marketing consultant who writes a column for Profit magazine. He and I had a stimulating discussion about innovation that he turned into an excellent column entitled “Innovation: Kick up a stink”. He especially focused on “skunkworks” – a highly underutilized approach to experiment, pilot, and find new and better ways to make things and deliver services.