8 essential practices of successful innovation

The practices are all integrated into a non-sequential, coherent whole and style in the person of the innovator. The structure of the eight practices is summarized in the chart below. The first two are the main work of invention and the next three the main work of adoption. These five tend to be done sequentially. Each of the final three creates an environment for effective conduct of all the other practices.

Structure of the Innovation Practices

main work of invention





main work of adoption







environment for the other practices







The specification of each practice has two parts.  The anatomy describes the structure of the practice when it goes well and produces its outcome.  The characteristic breakdowns are the most common obstacles that arise in trying to complete the practice.  Within the practice, the innovator steers toward the desired outcome and copes with breakdowns that may arise.

Innovation is adoption of new practice in a community.  The community is the group you want to adopt your idea — users, practitioners, investors, potential team members, clients, senior executives, family members, and the like.

1. Sensing

Articulating a new possibility that would bring value to the community by addressing an issue or seizing an opportunity.

2. Envisioning

Building a compelling, engaging story of how the world would be better if the possibility were made real. more…

3. Offering

Presenting a proposed practice and its benefits to a community and its leaders so that they commit to consider it.

4. Adopting

Getting community members to commit to adopt the practice for the first time, reserving the option of dropping it if not satisfied after a trial period.

5. Sustaining

Getting community members to commit to the practice for an extended period, integrating it into their other practices, standards, incentives, and processes, and making it productive for its useful life.

6. Executing

Coordinating actions, planning and carrying out all individual and team commitments needed to support adoption and deliver its value.

7. Leading

Working proactively to produce the essential outcomes of the other practices, overcoming obstacles, building and maintaining trust, and sustaining the leader’s own commitment.

8. Embodying

Practicing the other practices until you can perform them automatically without conscious thought, and helping the community members embody the practice they are adopting.
Innovation is adoption of new practice in a community.

In reality, these practices are not sequential at all. The innovator moves constantly among them, refining the results of earlier ones after seeing their consequences later. It is better to think of them as being done in parallel rather than in numerical order.

We also discovered that each practice has a somatic aspect as well as its conversational aspect. The somatic aspect accounts for body reactions and emotions that accompany language. The somatic aspect takes a role front and center in the eighth practice (embodying).

These eight practices are special in that their structures are completely observable in both their conversational and somatic aspects. This fact enabled us to specify how to teach, train, and coach the practices. The overall effectiveness of these practices depends on the innovator integrating them into a single, coherent style. The practices affirmatively answer the question, “Is innovation a learnable practice?” They define what it means to be a skillful innovator.