Innovation is an inherently emergent process. It’s not just about where we want to end up; it’s highly dependent on where we are. Where we begin has a profound impact on where we can go.
“The greatest thing since sliced bread,” implies a kind of automatic acceptance that wasn't true then and isn't now. As someone who embraces innovation, it pains me to say it but apparently some things don’t change, at least not very much. Winning acceptance of any new idea is far from automatic.
Great innovations are often based on powerful intuitions, but we all know examples of someone thinking they have a great intuition and being misguided. So where does intuition fit into innovation and how do we know when we can rely on it?
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.
Creative people tend to be intrinsically motivated. This is one of the best researched but least appreciated pieces of the whole innovation equation. It requires a total paradigm shift in the way companies think about motivating employees and what behaviors are valued.
What is it about attempts at creativity and discovery that so frequently prompt us to turn up our noses and sniff, “Well that’s not really new.” As if to say that if it’s not a world class breakthrough, it simply doesn’t qualify. We don’t do that with other skills and behaviors.
It’s easy for anyone to look back on an idea that has either succeeded or failed and draw conclusions about whether or not it was a good idea to pursue. The harder question is of course, “How does one know before an idea has succeeded or failed whether or not it’s worth pursuing?”
Unfortunately even a series of creative events, no matter how well executed, is not likely to change the underlying habits and relationships inside an organization. On the contrary, it may reinforce the impression that creativity is to be used occasionally, as just some tool that you pick up when you happen to need it and then put down again. In a true innovation culture, creativity is “always on”.