Facilitating Innovation Preface
We are born to be innovators. We’ve learned through tastes, sounds, trials. We’ve experimented, crawled, discovered through cause and effect. Then, our parental figures went out of their way to help. Not realizing that their words of “let me show you” or “this is how we do it” brought forth normalization, standardization, and repeatability. This was the beginning of the lifelong battle of tamping down our creative nature.
This cycle continues throughout our lives. Grades let you know how you performed in your attempt to be like everyone else. Side comments from friends and peers are given on how to fit in. Feedback from our loved ones let us know on how to think like them. Criticisms by bosses on how our performance show us how we did not live up to their expectations. We all eventually break and adhere: we normalize, and we comply. But there are a select few who continue to march to their own beat. They are the misfits, the troublemakers, the inventors, and the experimenters that keep innovating. This book is not for them: this is for their employers, their managers, their partners, and their parents so that they can help their inventors thrive in a world meant to suppress them.
The origin of innovation begins long before the ability to document these feats of creativity. As anthropology continues to advance, mankind is beginning to piece together their origin story and how technology helped transform us. Through the Stone Age, the Renaissance, Industrialization, to someday the Golden Age, we find stone tools, early wheels, iron swords, and early writings. History books proclaim the sudden advances of the cotton gin, the steam engine, and the personal computer but tend to leave out sliced bread.
Everything on the planet today is rooted in and based on innovation. We are living in the aggregate of thousands of years of discovery and the scaffolding of ideas that have helped create our present-day reality. Innovation is not only a trait of the creative but of mankind. With each passing year, creativity expands. Human connections multiply, and ideas flow freely. Mankind is now in the age of a massive innovation flux, running back from the origins of harnessed electricity to the mobile technology transformation that is currently being experienced.
One fascinating aspect of innovation is that there are groupings of inventors throughout periods versus a periodic rise of inventors. For example, there was a tight bonding between Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the great philosophers of Greece. The Renaissance era included artists such as Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli. The modern capitalist era that rushed in market-changing innovation includes Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, as well as J. P. Morgan and George Westinghouse. These groupings are an explosion of collaboration upon which ideas, competition, and kindred minds can flourish in the right environment.
The twenty-first century has brought us a new explosion of the right environmental conditions and the available talent to capitalize on such conditions. Personal computing and the Internet have brought significant market changes in how businesses operate, which has fueled the growth needed to create products that align with the consumer. This shift toward technology gained steam with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak’s advances in personal computing. Larry Page and Sergey Brin maximized the personal computer by developing the Google search engine. Elon Musk started with Internet banking and has continued to innovate with electric cars and a privatized space program. This all signals an enlightened era of innovation where the realms appear to be boundless.
Innovation is another word in the lexicon of corporate jargon that rears its head whenever the stagnation of ideas finally boils over. Also known as ideation, creation, generating, building, and so forth, innovation has become the term for something different from the norm. As the term innovation became bastardized, its definition has also lost meaning. Used in nebulous contexts, innovation could mean formal product development in a company, and to others, it could be an organization’s new strategies or solutions for troublesome issues. It could also be a term used for what is missing when the repetition of recycled ideas keeps occurring. This book will take a traditional approach to the context of innovation, showing that innovation is a unique, novel idea, product, or approach.
There are three core beliefs to this book’s foundation that must be clarified to explain the approach. The first is that the individual is more creative than a team. Although it sounds counterintuitive, researchers have proven time and time again that an individual will outperform a team in creative performance in terms of quantity and quality; this is because of people focusing most of their cognitive efforts on how their ideas will be perceived (when working on a team) versus the idea itself (when working alone).
This sounds counter to the common beliefs of innovation. Because corporate society and education fields have placed a significant focus on the benefit of teams. At the conclusion of a group project, a sense of communal euphoria occurs because the team achieved consensus and forget that their intent to achieve quality. If society knows this, why do we still work in teams? For those who do understand this phenomenon, they realize that problems and solutions are growing more complex, dynamic, and interrelated, especially within an organization. As complexity increases, so does the need for domain expertise, and here, teams represent the aggregate of the need for expertise. This book, then, also focuses on how to get the most creativity out of a team.
The second misconception to address is that innovation only belongs to the research and design organizations. Throughout the organization, in every department resides knowledge workers employed to create. There is an untapped wealth of insights, perspectives, and ideas from the entire workforce. Best Workplaces surveyed over half a million employees at over 800 major businesses. They found that the more inclusive a company when it came to hearing ideas from the workforce, the higher overall revenue growth prospects for the organization was. It was found that these organizations excelled at setting up special structures to brainstorm, contribute, and collaborate. This behavior also breaks the barrier of having the belief that only a select few can innovate.
The third core belief is that not everyone can handle innovation at face value. Innovation equals change, and change means disruption. John Kotter famously wrote that over seventy percent of change efforts fail. Their inability to handle the disruption to what they had normalized. This is no different from disruptive innovation, which creates the fear that norms will be broken. This also identifies a risk area for innovators because there are organizational subconscious behaviors. These behaviors work to stamp out innovation. This behavior more often than not is not a conscious action or thought but is out of survival of maintaining the consistency of the status quo. This leaves the creator with a second challenge: idea adoption.
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