When it comes to innovation, making good predictions isn’t about trying to discern where the world is headed as much as where we might take the world. It’s an imaginative process (often just as imaginative as coming up with ideas in the first place). Innovation is not about predicting the future we’re expecting but rather achieving the future we want to create.
People in the wrong frame of mind can undermine even the most thoughtfully designed innovation processes. Folks in the right frame of mind can overcome many imperfections in those processes. Systems and processes are important in business, but they’re no substitute for enhancing the way people think.
Whenever we must extend beyond what we already know, it’s fundamentally the same cognitive exercise, whether we’re trying to cure disease, invent a new kind of financial instrument, win a promotion, launch a coup, or win someone’s hand in marriage. It all comes down to the ability to figure out; it’s the ultimate transferable skill.
One of the central challenges innovators manage to overcome is the tendency to cling to past assumptions and beliefs and orthodoxies. Being willing and able to escape that mental inertia is one of the things that most distinguishes innovators. They’re skilled uinlearners.
There’s something remarkably powerful about a good story. It can take the driest of facts and breathe life into them, and it can do the same thing with an idea. Skilled innovators take their ideas and turn them into stories, often reshaping their assumptions and beliefs in the process.
Many of us are not well positioned to gain fresh insights and make new discoveries. We’re not in the right mindset and as Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” So even when we’ve made all the other choices that set us up to innovate, we still have a gap.
Many of us resist exercising our imagination, and even more of us don’t trust our imagination enough to act on it. Yet it’s by exploring our ideas and gathering feedback that we’re able to improve them…and it’s not just our imagination that needs frequent testing.
We need to stop stopping ourselves. We’ve been conditioned to suppress our creative impulses and with them our capacity to innovate. When the world was stable and predictable, this may have been adaptive. But none of us lives in that world anymore. We live in a much more dynamic place where we need to constantly learn and unlearn and relearn...
Research and Development has long been at the core of innovation efforts of companies worldwide. While many other innovation tools have since come into use, R & D remains an essential activity—especially in any technology sector. And so it is with individuals.