Innovation

12 06 2008

When you look at the people who change the way we do, look at, or thing about something, they seem to have one thing in common– they have a way of looking at whatever they are doing in a new way.  They throw away the conventions of what is and start fresh.  They build a process of innovation that removes as much of the assumptions that we would normally bring to a task because ‘that’s the way it has always been done.’  It’s bold, daring and yields some tremendous results.  Certainly we wouldn’t have some of the amazing technology we have today if we didn’t have those innovators breaking new ground for us.

Why not innovate?

If creating new ways of approaching problems can result in beautiful, efficient, or clever solutions, why doesn’t everybody do it?  We should all be capable of looking at a particular object, situation, or procedure and see a way to make it better.  Especially if it is a something that we come into contact with on a regular basis.  That’s the whole principle behind managers coming out of their offices and asking their workers what they would improve. Who knows better than those actually doing the job?

But innovation means change.  Change our processes, change our products, change our lives.  Humans like order. They tend to get comfortable with the way things are. They know what to expect.  It also makes our brains lazy. We don’t have to think about what we are doing because it is an automatic process.  But a lazy brain is a less productive brain and the people who spend years working in the same job, doing the same thing are often very uncreative in dealing with new problems and situations.

Another reason why we don’t change things is because there is risk in change. We’ve been taught that failure is bad.  You lose, you get an ‘F’, you get rejected– that’s a bad thing.  I reject that notion.  Not learning from failure, now that is a bad thing.   And with innovation, there will be failure.  How many ideas won’t work?  The psychic damage of failure can sometimes be insurmountable.  The true innovators are the ones who can push past all that failure and get to that idea that works.  No one remembers the other guy who  gave up trying to invent  the telephone, they remember Alexander Graham Bell.

Well I’ve resolved myself to be an innovator.  Find solutions.  Create beauty.  Learn from failure.  I encourage all of you to do the same.


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4 responses

12 06 2008
Ronald

Innovation seems to be the only way we are going to get anywhere, its as if the people in the media are begging someone to fix things.

12 06 2008
Wolfgod

There’s a story idea here. 😛

12 06 2008
James

Wow… Very well said. I couldn’t agree more, just so long as change doesn’t mean changing one’s mind so frequently there is never closure, but I do agree with your commentary.

It’s often times easier to be the victim and whine or blame the result (or lack thereof) on the limitations, than to be proactive to innovate the desired result another way… and stick to it. There is bound to be another way to get the quality result by another means.

Sure its hard and there are many flops along the way when you invent or try to make improvements, but at least progress is made and persevering usually -I think- results in achieving the goal, and at the very least ALWAYS produces wisdom and experience to make the next hurdle easier to overcome.

“You’ll always get what you’ve always gotten, if you always do what you’ve always done”. I don’t know who said it but I live by it, and helps me problem solve.

Break the cycle… there is a better way to do it… figure it out. If someone says “we’re going to build a time machine”, you don’t say “it can’t be done” you pretend it was done, and you think about how they must have made it happen.

Mike Moore (a CEO I worked for) had a neat approach to getting out of a problematic rut. He’d help you to help yourself, by getting you to think through your own problem, with these four questions…

“What are you doing?”
“Why are you doing it?”
“Who told you to do it?”
“When will it be done?”

Its sounds obvious but its the simplest way to see if your really doing what you should.

What I like most about the questions- you can really go deep philosophically when peeling back layers of symptoms to find the root cause that is the actual problem. Why am I doing it?… who told me?… can get me thinking, or rethinking the matter altogether.

Good article Phil.

17 06 2008
Katie

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