Innovation

I attended a program on innovation last week. The speaker was Frans Johannson; he was really compelling. He talked about how innovation is all about intersections – the places where diverse thoughts/industries/paradigms come together. He was able to show how insects can influence architecture and Martin Luther King Jr. has an influence on techno music. It is the surprise factor that makes an idea exciting, and it is diversity that drives innovation.

Now, I have a lot of work-related ideas, many of which are interesting and a few of which are innovative. On one hand we are encouraged to be creative and try new things; on the other, we are hog-tied by something ironically called our “innovation process” – it is a cumbersome methodology designed to ensure that ideas are carefully thought out, the ROI is quantified, the budget is laid out, staff hours are accounted for, etc. All of this sounds perfectly reasonable and logical, and it also effectively kills innovation. It’s a very frustrating place in which to live…I’d really like to innovate the New Product Development process into obsolescence. One of the other things Johannson shared with us is that if we want to innovate, we need to do something, do anything. We may fail, but at least we tried and now we know more than we did before. If the “process” for innovation is to stop failure before it’s tried, there’s no way to try. If you really want to innovate, you need to think in surprising ways, allowing room for trying and subsequently learning from mistakes – with truly unexpected ideas, you can’t possibly know in advance how it’s all going to turnout! Creativity is not a linear process, it is messy and dirty and accidental and fun. To me, rules and frameworks are akin to professional fear…maybe the whole thing will be found lacking and then what? You better innovate your resume…

– Libby Bingham

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