• Helping companies, nonprofits, and even governments uncover their innovative capabilities
Joel Barker has been a consultant and speaker on innovation since the 1970s. But he’s less interested in looking back than thinking ahead.
Barker emphasizes what he terms “innovation on the verge.” He calls this a “type” of innovation, where two items that were thought to be distinct are brought together to create a new product or a more efficient process.
Barker also has been developing an innovation stimulus device called the “implications wheel.” This software-based tool “allows you to do early risk and opportunity assessment. So, long before you’ve paid money for manufacturing and long before you pay money for marketing, you can plug the idea into the implications wheel, understand the cascade of consequences that could spill out from that implication, change the design to minimize the negatives that show up or eliminate the negatives, and understand some of the opportunities that were not initially obvious.”
Barker’s recent clients have included Toro, Cisco Systems, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the government of Singapore. One of his newest clients: the National Catholic Education Association, which is seeking more sustainable approaches to funding its schools.
“Of the hundreds of innovation thought leaders we have studied, there are only a small handful whose work has enabled more than one large-scale change in the world,” says Uri Neren, founder of the Minneapolis-based World Database of Innovation. “Joel is one of them.”