Some moments in life are indelibly etched in our memory. I will never forget one evening several years ago. In fact, I can point to the chair where I sat when it happened. My wife, three children, and I were eating dinner together. Suddenly, an idea sparked in my brain. I grabbed a pencil and a piece of paper from the kitchen counter and began diagramming my concept. New ideas can be fleeting, so I was begging my children to bring me more paper, fast. They were all laughing at me because it wasn't the first time that dinner had been interrupted by an \u201caha\u201d moment.\n\nEarlier, my manager challenged me with a complex technical question underpinning an inflection point for our organization. My dinner drawings captured at a high level how we could solve the technical challenges associated with this opportunity. Ultimately, we fully vetted and deployed the solution I mapped out, which launched a whole new business for our company. This is the process of invention, which leads to innovation that secures an organization\u2019s future and can change the world.\n\nFor organizations, invention (creating something new) that leads to innovation (creating positive business impact) requires a team effort and an ecosystem-wide iterative process peppered with dependencies, discoveries, and iterations along the way. Knowing this upfront helps companies get innovation right. That\u2019s important because businesses thrive on innovation\u2014and without it, they risk obsolescence.\n\nFrom invention to innovation\n\nMy team\u2019s mission is stimulating breakthrough ideas and accelerating the development of greener, more sustainable solutions that drive value for our customers. I\u2019ve been fortunate to have a lot of \u201csparks,\u201d yielding over 90 patents in my career, and have seen and helped many innovations come to light. But moving ideas forward, or \u201coperationalizing innovation,\u201d can be tricky. And bringing to fruition solutions that shift industries is becoming more difficult. According to research, \u201cpapers, patents, and even grant applications have become less novel relative to prior work and less likely to connect disparate areas of knowledge, both of which are precursors of innovation.\u201d \n\nThis suggests that, to deliver innovation, we have to work closely with our technology and process users to get solutions right. My team and I use a rapid learn-and-pivot methodology known as \u201ccompassion-driven innovation\u201d to stay connected with our customers and ecosystem while addressing underlying concerns such as security, customer and user experience, and sustainability. Using this methodology helps us to de-risk our customers\u2019 journeys into digital solutions.\n\nInnovation requires a holistic, connected, iterative approach; without it, even the best ideas can fail. Here\u2019s a three-pronged litmus test. Innovations must solve problems by:\n\nCustomer-centric innovations\n\nInnovations must meet customers at a specific point of need while being financially viable and differentiated from other options. Earlier this year, our team was researching a new solution called Digital Pathology On Demand (DPOD), which enables pathologists and researchers to collaborate using digital slide images. This solution has the potential to completely transform pathology. Recently, I spoke with a doctor at one of the world\u2019s leading cancer hospitals about our DPOD pilot. He was thrilled because the solution addresses a huge unmet need that has been hindering pathology. With DPOD, this doctor said he could practice medicine and not worry about huge files, scanning, and physical asset management while simultaneously gaining access, speed, and collaboration.\n\nTapping into an ecosystem\n\nMany people focus on the spark of invention. However, that spark must be nurtured within a highly interdependent ecosystem, including customers, influencers, end-users, partners, and beyond-for innovation to occur.\u00a0\n\nOne of the most valuable and widely adopted innovations of my lifetime, the cell phone, could not be used without its enabling ecosystem. For example, when cell phones were introduced, they were large, heavy, and awkward to hold, but still \u201cmobile\u201d because they were wireless. One of the biggest drawbacks was that they were not able to roam. If you left your neighborhood and went across town, the phone would not work. When the cell tower ecosystem evolved, the ability for cell phones to roam delivered mobility, and cell phone adoption skyrocketed.\n\nInnovating for the greater good\n\nIncreasingly, enterprise leaders are shifting focus to innovations that help people and our planet. For instance, environmental sustainability is now among CEOs\u2019 top 10 priorities. The surprising benefit-beyond environmental ones-is that sustainability initiatives often generate positive financial returns for organizations.\n\nOrganizations face two key environmental challenges: 1) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in product design and creation, and 2) to ensure that products can be recycled or reintroduced into the circular economy. Innovations must help answer these two needs. The big question is how organizations can approach wide-scale change and advance sustainability goals for themselves and others. To help answer that increasingly important question, I suggest you read our sustainability paper here.\n\nCatalyzing your next family-dinner \u2018spark\u2019\n\nInnovation is a powerful tool for organizations and our world. Using three guiding principles to ensure innovation is viable helps to harness its incredible potential. Is it customer-centric? Are the ecosystems-internal and external to your organization-in place to make it viable? Does it contribute to a better world?\n\nNext time you\u2019re sharing a meal or time with your friends or family, I hope you experience an \u201caha\u201d moment. Although that spark of brilliance is thrilling, remember the litmus test. And keep a pencil and paper handy.\n\nLearn more about how to accelerate sustainability.\n\nRead about sustainability innovation and tomorrow\u2019s engineers.\n\nLearn about Digital Pathology On Demand.