Innovation specialist Dr. Ripi Singh is Chief Innovation & Strategy Coach at Inspiring Next. He’s also a U.S. delegate for the International Organization for Standardization on Innovation Management and Chair of NDE 4.0 for The American Society of Nondestructive Testing (ASNT).

Throughout the pandemic, Ripi has seized the opportunity to share valuable information by launching a series of books and delving deeper into the exploration of human-to-human innovation. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price reconnected with Ripi for another innovation update.

NAN PRICE: How do you define innovation? And why is it so challenging to define?

RIPI SINGH: There are hundreds of definitions of innovation. So, I chose not to add another one to the confusion. My preferred definition comes from Crossan and Apaydin [Ref: A Multidimensional Framework of Organizational Innovation: A Systematic Review of The Literature]:

Innovation is “Production or adoption, assimilation, and exploitation of a value-added novelty in economic and social spheres; renewal and enlargement of products, services, and markets; development of new methods of production; and establishment of new management systems. It is both a process and an outcome.”

This definition is the most comprehensive, as it captures several important aspects of innovation: It includes both internally conceived and externally adopted innovation (production or adoption); it highlights innovation as more than a creative process, by including application (exploitation); it emphasizes intended benefits (value-added) at one or more levels of analyses including social spheres; it leaves open the possibility that innovation may refer to a relative novelty of an innovation as opposed to the absolute; and it draws attention to the two roles of innovation (a process and an outcome), the keyword being outcome.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has recently converged on a simple set of terms and descriptors for use in innovation management. Innovation is “New or changed entity, realizing or redistributing value.” Novelty and value are relative to, and determined by, the perception of the organization and relevant interested parties. An innovation can be a product, service, process, model, method, etc.

NAN: Throughout the pandemic, you’ve embraced the opportunity to write many books on the topic.

RIPI: The discretionary time created by pandemic was an opportunity that I exploited. All my in-person workshop content over the years became a feed for the set of first four books on innovation, and it continues to date. The pandemic also gave me a chance to virtually deliver more than 20 keynote lectures and receive feedback from around the world.

In first quarter of 2021, Nerac President Kevin Bouley hosted a monthly series of virtual book launch events for me, one for each book, which got me fired up to keep writing more.

NAN: What encouraged you to start writing?

RIPI: Back in 2016, you and I talked about my proprietary innovation framework to help companies bring culture of innovation into their workforce. I’ve been coaching and implementing that for almost eight years. In 2019, we talked about how some of those elements have become a part of the ISO 56000 – innovation management guidance standard. I think I’m still the only one from Connecticut who is participating in development of international standards for innovation.

Now, my mentors and advisors have been challenging me to think about scaling this practice and making this framework available to broader audience. One of the answers is books. That’s what triggered it. The pandemic just created enough time for me to concentrate and get them to market. In fact, I was about to release them in February 2020 and I had to slow down to add a chapter on “Tough Times” in each of the books to address the current situation. The release got further delayed to August 2020 as publishers had also slowed down.

NAN: How many books did you roll out in two years? And what are you working on now as forthcoming topics?

RIPI: The initial set of four was:

  1. Inspiring Next Innovation Purpose: Why not … best for the world?
  2. Inspiring Next Innovation Value Chain: How about … best in the world?
  3. Inspiring Next Innovation Framework: What if … innovation could be structured?
  4. Inspiring Next Innovation Mindset Chain: Why not … start with a why not?

Based on feedback from readers, I wrote a few more:

  1. Inspiring Next H2H Innovation: Human ideas to serve human needs
  2. Multivitamins for Healthy Innovation: an Inspiring Next Prescription
  3. Race to the Future: Strategies and Tactics in Innovation

Working with Industry 4.0 and in partnership with an expert from Germany, we wrote

  1. Welcome to the world of NDE 4.0: Let the Journey Begin.

We just gave the rights for this book to the ASNT to publish it for global market.

As readership built, demand was clear about two things: A single comprehensive volume for libraries and a shorter version to address why-what-how for executive types who can get the gist in 40 minutes. That led me to writing:

  1. Inspiring Next Purposeful Innovation (Summary Volume)
  2. InnovatePedia: Puts YOU in the driver’s seat (Comprehensive Compendium)

Going into 2022, I have a few more books outlined, but I’m unsure how much time I’ll be able to give them. Topics I’m thinking of include:

  1. The ABC of Value Creation
  2. Digital Transformation: Secret to success
  3. Innovation Theater: Let the show be over!
  4. Inspiring Next Burst Innovation: How to bounce forward from tough times

The knowledge sharing has been very fulfilling. Particularly on innovation, where there’s so little out there to grab onto.

NAN: I’m intrigued by the term “H2H” in one of your books. Tell us about the human’s role in innovation.

RIPI: For many years, I’ve been focused on business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer) (B2C). For several years, even my innovation practice was process focused, as evidenced from the first four book volumes. One day a reader pointed out that all four books have humans on the cover, but I don’t explicitly cover human interaction, I started pulling out human-related content to make sense out of it. Then I heard the term “H2H” coined by Bryan Kramer. It stands for human-to-human. It clicked. And Volume 5 was created.

Innovation processes and practices start with a human idea and are driven to serve  human needs. In between, the process of innovation is full of human choices and decisions, influenced by human biases and notions, controlled by human behavior, resisted by job insecurity, altered by diversity and inclusion, augmented by human-machine interaction, and confused by ethical dilemmas. Being inherently uncertain, innovation requires continuous oversight, risk mitigation, and intervention.

Whether we like it or not, innovation is a highly intensive human activity. That’s why ISO standards are emerging to help. If it’s so hard to define, imagine what it takes to master it.

NAN: With all this book production, are you enjoying the royalties?

RIPI: I actually pass on all royalties for ocean clean up. It’s a commitment I made to support sustainability in everything I do, and it also permits me to shamelessly promote these books.

Learn more about Dr. Ripi Singh and order his books  from his Amazon author page.