“Innovation”– It’s not invention, not scientific discovery and certainly not mathematical proof but it is a very important aspect of achieving success. Innovation is the process by which we change the world. To put it simply, it is about making things better, significant and hopefully in meaningful ways. It’s the practical application of ideas and technologies to make new and better things. Now, innovation is hard. It requires taking chances. It requires challenging those things we think we know with certainty. It’s about taking the risks and breaking the rules.
A while ago, I came across a classic book the Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christenson. And in that book, he beautifully explained that the lack of innovation is not a failure of big tech companies but rather it’s a result of prudent and sound management.
And from my observation I understood, innovation is done by individuals. The skills required like imagination, creativity, problem-solving skills and these are all individual skills.
There are three key things that can help us build an ideal environment for generating innovation.
- The right kind of people to generate inspiration
- Appropriate rewards and intensives
- And a common language
Years ago according to a study conducted by IBM, the number one factor identified for achieving success in business is ‘Creativity’. But we have a problem; these big industries say that creativity is core to the business success however they are unknowing choking it out of the business environment.
As a designing teacher, I have been spending some time thinking about this problem and I believe we have a fundamental misunderstanding of creativity and innovation. We need to start by rejecting the notion that creativity belongs to a selectively few right brain thinkers the painters, the writers, the poets and unavailable to the logical left brain thinkers like a mathematician, computer scientist, and engineers.
- Innovation starts with the desire to make meaning as opposed to making money. Making meaning that you can change the world and if you happen to change the world, you will also probably make money. But if you start off with the sole desire to make money, you probably won’t make money and you’ll fail. Therefore, we need to determine how to make meaning. Let’s take an example of the biggest tech company Google; they wanted to democratise information by making information available to everyone. Most of their products and services have been outsourced so that their users can freely use them and improvise them at the same time. And as you all know that making meaning has led them to be very successful. So, if you truly want to make meaning then it will be the first step towards innovation.
- The second step towards innovation is to decide what kind of meaning you want to make from your idea. Try to find just a few words to describe that why meaning should exist.
- And the third step towards innovation is to aim high and take a leap of faith. We cannot stay on the same track for a long time, to make a big change you need to jump from your curve that you are on. Great innovation occurs when you go to the next curve.
At the start of any great innovation, you may think you know exactly who your customer is and what they should do with your product. But you may be surprised that people are going to use your product in ways you did not anticipate. Positioning and branding of your products ultimately come down to what the consumer decides, not to what you decide.
To be an innovator you need to be in denial because the naysayers will tell you many negative things about your idea and you need to ignore these people and walk straight ahead. Most of the time when a great idea gets presented to the world the initial reaction is “rejection”. And people who have presented their great idea to the world don’t believe in this saying anymore, people who still believe in this saying, they had yet to present the world with their great idea.
For an idea to be innovative and creative it has to satisfy two qualities. It has to be new and it has to be useful. And it turns out we have terrible time reconciling these two things. When an idea is new, it’s unknown. It threatens the status quo of the old. And it’s the old that we use to judge whether or not it’s something useful. So when we attempt to judge a new idea, based on the paradigm of the old idea we end up not seeing the potential of that new idea.
We live in the world marked by uncertainty; we face complex challenges that need new and innovative solutions. We have conversations going on across the globe about creative and innovative ideas. In education, we want to know how we can keep schools from killing the creativity of our students, how do we raise up a generation of more innovative students. In business, we ask how we can make our team create innovative ideas that build a sustainable competitive advantage. But we fail to recognise that we don’t need more great ideas perhaps we just need to get better at recognising the great ideas that are being presented to us.