First some definitions: learning is the creation of knowledge; knowledge is the capacity to take effective action; and innovation is the creation and application of new or unusual ideas and/or products. Second, the fundamental learning cycle of learning, knowing and doing sounds simple, but can be quite challenging to implement. From a systems view, the major subsystems are the learner, the environment and the learning process. Each of these needs to be optimized for maximum payoff of creativity and innovation.
What are the critical success factors, (CSF) leading to successful innovation? Consider the innovation process starting with the information, knowledge, experience, theories and goals of an individual or small group. The next step is to expand that knowledge base through a learning process. This process takes information in through experience, reflects on it, and through abstract conceptualization creates understanding, meaning, insights, judgment and the ability to anticipate the outcome of actions. CSFs would include: communicating with your unconscious and listening to its ideas; working with your emotions to enhance awareness and utilization of ideas through playing and excitement; building the right content of information; working in an enriched environment, playing with ideas; exploring and dialoguing with two others; and a willingness to risk being wrong. Use exercise and good nutrition to keep your mind/brain healthy.
There is more: manage your stress level so that it creates strong arousal and interest, but not so strong as to create fear and stress. Question and assess the importance of what you learn in terms of its relation to the objective. Be aware of your own theories, beliefs, frames of reference and have the ability to shift them at will. Recognize the plasticity of your mind and the control you have over it through your willpower, unconscious, and ability to influence your own genes through Epigenetics. Seek the meaning of your learning by asking, and answering, how and why questions. And spend time reading and studying other disciplines close to your expertise to generate creative ideas from the connections and potential synergy from the interface between disciplines.
Given a creative idea, it must then be converted into a product. This is best done by an integrated product team, where a spectrum of expertise is available. Examples include design and development engineering, test and evaluation, quality control, logistics management, financial management, cost estimating, market analysis, and sales. The critical success factors would be the depth of expertise and the ability to manage and integrate these experts to ensure an integrated approach during the development and production processes. Team-members must listen, learn, understand and collaborate to ensure a high-quality, robust product. The team leader would facilitate, create a common language via team collaboration, and use a systems approach with continuous learning. When successful, these become the culture of the team. The innovative product will be capable of adding value within a broad range of context variability—ensuring its market acceptance.