We are born 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 in all of us of the lifelong battle of tamping down our creative nature.
This cycle continues throughout life. Grades let you know how you performed in attempting to be like everyone else. Side comments from friends and peers on how to fit in. Feedback from our loved ones on how to think as they do. Criticisms by bosses on how our performance did not live up to their expectations. We all eventually break and adhere, we normalize, and we comply. But there are a select few that 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 partners, and their parents so that they can help them 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 begins to piece together the origin story and how technology helped transform mankind. 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 and based on innovation. We are living in the aggregate of thousands of years of discovery and the scaffolding of ideas to 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 times and 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 which rushed 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 flourished in the right environment.
The 21st 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 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, and Elon Musk started with Internet banking and has continued to innovate with electric cars and a privatized space program. This has signaled 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, etcetera. Innovation has become the term for something different from the norm for this time period. As the term innovation has been 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 to troublesome issues. It could also be a term used for what is missing when a repetition of recycled ideas keeps occurring. This book will take a traditional approach to the context of innovation that it is a unique, novel idea, product, or approach.
There are three core beliefs to this book’s foundation that has to be clarified beforehand to explain the approach. The first being that the individual is more creative than a team. While 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 due to people focusing most of their cognitive efforts on how their ideas will be perceived versus the idea itself.
This sounds counter to common beliefs on innovation because corporate society and education fields have placed a significant focus on the benefit of teams and that at the conclusion of a group project, there is a sense of communal euphoria because the team achieved consensus and forget that they were intended to achieve quality. If society knows this, why do we still work in teams? For those that do understand this phenomenon, they realize that problems and solutions are growing more complex, dynamic, and interrelated within an organization. As complexity increases, so does the need for domain expertise and teams represent the aggregate of the need for expertise. This book 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 reside knowledge workers that are employed to create. There is an untapped wealth of insights, perspectives, and ideas from the entire workforce. Best Workplaces surveyed over half of a million employees at over eight-hundred major businesses to find that the more inclusive a company was to hear ideas from the workforce had a direct correlation to overall higher revenue growth prospects for the organization. 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 70% of change efforts fail due to multiple reasons. This is no different from disruptive innovation, it creates fear that norms will be broken. This also identifies a risk area for innovators because there are organizational subconscious behaviors that will work to stamp out innovation. This behavior more often than not is not on purpose but is out of survival of maintaining the consistency of the status quo. This leaves the creator to a second challenge, one of idea adoption.
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