There Is No Innovation Process

Depending on innovation heroes is not replicable nor sustainable.

Milliken & Company has one of the world’s preeminent materials research facilities in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Their impressive customer center displays over 35,000 products they have developed, including a chemical that makes the type of plastic used in water bottles transparent.

On a tour of the center many years ago, I heard that an insight had bubbled up inside Milliken that it was frustrating to open every opaque black plastic DVD case in a movie drawer at home to see if the disk you are looking for is inside. Finding movies would be easier if the cases were clear.

Jim Spry, a Milliken business developer, jumped on being the Milliken champion for this opportunity and flew to California to convince the movie industry to switch to clear DVD cases. After some initial skeptics, he was able to convince the producers of Blu-ray disks to use translucent blue packaging to differentiate their product at retail from other formats. This allowed Jim to convince the producers of High Definition DVDs, Blu-ray’s primary competitors, to use translucent red packaging for their product. Both the blue and the red packing created new markets for Milliken’s chemical that made plastics translucent.

Jim’s story is an excellent example of how major companies can find high growth opportunities from the informed intuition inside their organization.

But there’s a rub. I asked my host, “What’s the process that empowered Jim?”

“What do you mean?” he replied.

I said, “Large organizations are process driven. Who said Jim could do that? How were the plane tickets paid for?”

The answer, “There’s no process. Jim’s done things like this before, so we all trust he can do it again.”

Depending on innovation heroes is not replicable nor sustainable.

Fortunately, Jim’s not a freak of nature. Everyone in and around your organization, is creative.

If you are interested in defining a process that mere mortals in your organization can use to discover and validate their informed intuition about massive new market opportunities, let’s talk.

John Warner <>



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John Warner

John Warner


Serial entrepreneur sharing 40 years of insights to control your destiny in our turbulent times