Is Innovation All About Ideas? Revealing the Secret of Innovation

August 21, 20191:35 pm
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A manager of Company X always encourages his employees to propose innovative ideas during meetings. He suggests that innovation is all they need in order to thrive in today’s competitive market. The employees respond to the invitation enthusiastically by voicing their ideas and opinions. But alas, despite the spirit, the company seems to find a hard way to produce a sustainable profit.  

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What is likely their problem? Why their innovative idea does not work? Given this thought, Scott Berkun, a speaker and author of “Confessions of A Public Speaker”, discussed that innovation, as a word or concept, is entirely overrated. When you talk about innovation, people often give a vague, subjective term that distracts from what you are trying to do such as increasing profit by making good things. Berkun added that real inventors and leaders rarely propose “innovation” as a concept. They didn’t “use” the word innovation but rather “act” on it. Identifying XYZ company, the problem does not lie in their “innovation” but in how they act upon those innovations. 

Getting to know the real innovation

In broad term, innovation has many meanings. For instance, if you ask a coworker what innovation means, you might get an answer like ‘out-of-the-box idea’. If you ask your manager, he might answer ‘applicable ideas while staying relevant’. Meanwhile, even according to some experts as interviewed by Nick Skillicorn, you will get various answers from useful and novelty application to anything useful, new, or surprising – but rarely of them talk about ideas. So, let’s put it simply that innovation is about making great things – not merely about idea of great things.

“Don’t focus on ‘finding new ideas’ because innovation is more related to problem, experiment, solve, exploration, change, risk, and prototype.” – Scott Berkun

Research by David Burkus also explained that innovation is not an idea problem. It is about recognition problem, instead. In his research, Burkus said that in most organisations, innovation isn’t hampered by a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of noticing that the good ideas are already there.

For example, two people were given two tests. The first test was designed to examine their implicit perceptions of creativity and practicality. The second test was designed to explicitly survey their feelings toward new, creative ideas. Then, participants were asked to rate on a scale from 1 to 7. Surprisingly, the research found that participants who were exposed to a small amount of uncertainty said they valued creativity but actually favoured practical pairings. Meanwhile, participants in the uncertainty condition were presented a prototype for an innovative new running shoe rated it as less viable than the control group. It concludes that if creative (innovative) ideas are presented in times of uncertainty, even notable innovations can be initially rejected which also means innovation that makes company alive are being killed too quickly, explained Burkus.

“Innovation is not about idea-solution; it is a recognition-solution.” – David Burkus

As innovation is not merely related to ideas, how can we contribute to innovation? One possible solution is, advised Burkus, by changing the structure ideas to something that is applicable. Taking risks and accepting the craziest solution might be helpful rather than staying on current value of your organisation. Besides, the real ingredient of innovation is that, as suggested by David Kelley’s book titled “Creative Confidence”, an act of courage to test existing or novel ideas. With the right calculation and execution, innovation can be generated even from a very simple idea to the most complicated ones. 

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