Everyone talks about innovation: From the new smartphone to the latest toilet paper, every brand uses the keyword "innovation" to promote any kind of new product. This is not necessarily wrong since the word "innovation" comes from the Latin "innovus" which means "into the new". Today, the word innovation is perceived as a "significant positive change", but, personally, I prefer to refer to an innovation in terms of "something labeled as being an innovation by a happy customer".
Model / Concepts
- The myth of epiphany. We love stories of flashes of insight and they dominate how creativity is reported. Epiphany stories project illusions of certainty since they’re always about successful ideas. When you hear a story about a flash of insight, the useful questions to ask are 1) how much time the creator spent working before the flash happened and 2) how much work they did after to make the idea successful.
- The myth that we know history. We romanticize the past to fit the present, creating traps for creatives who don’t know the true history of their own field. Inspiring lies are often more popular than complex truths. History is not a straight line of progress, which means the present isn’t either.
- The myth of a method. The challenge with creative work, especially in a marketplace, is the many factors beyond your control. You can do everything right and still fail. Methods can be useful but they deny that the present is different from the past. There are too many variables in the present to have certainty. The idea of an innovation portfolio, where a range of risk is assumed, is more honest.
- The myth we love new ideas. We are a conservative species: Conformity is deep in our biology. While talking about creativity is very popular, actually being creative puts your social status at risk. Much of what makes a successful innovator is their ability to persuade and convince conservative people of the merits of their ideas, a very different skill from creativity itself. The bigger the idea, the harder the persuasion challenge.
- The myth of the lone inventor. It’s easier to worship a hero if they are portrayed as superhuman. In reality, stories of mad geniuses who worked completely alone are rare. Pick any master who you think worked alone and read some of their history: you’ll be surprised how many people influenced their work. Learning to collaborate, and give and receive feedback, may matter more than your brilliance.
- The myth that good ideas are rare. If you watch any 6 year old child they will invent dozens of things in an hour. We are built for creativity. The problem is the conventions of adult life demand conformity and we sacrifice our creative instincts in favor of social status. Unlike a child, adults are supremely and instantly judgmental, killing ideas before they’ve had even a moment to prove their worth. Good ideas are everywhere: what’s uncommon is people with the conviction to put their reputation behind ideas.
- The myth your boss knows more than you. A fallacy of workplaces is that senior staff are better at everything than the people who work for them. This is false in many ways, but creative intuition might be the most false. To rise in power demands good political judgement, yet innovation requires a willingness to defy convention. Convention-defiers are harder to promote in most organizations, yet essential for progress.
- The myth the best idea wins. We lionize winners and history blames losers for their fate. Marketing, politics and timing have tremendous influence on why one idea or its competitors wins. Adoption cost plays also a key role in defining the winner. The world of ideas is not a pure meritocracy and you need to act accordingly.
- The myth that problems are less interesting than solutions. Einstein said “If I had 20 days to solve a problem I would take 19 to define it.” There are many creative ways to think about a problem, and different ways to look at a situation. If you listen to how successful creators talk about their daily work, they spend more time thinking about the problem than epiphany obsessed media would have us believe.
- The myth innovation is always good. What impact will an idea have 1,5,10,100 years from now? All innovation is change and all change helps some people and hurts others. Many horrible inventions were created with the best intentions. Any successful idea has a multitude of consequences that are impossible to predict and difficult to even measure.
If you are naïve about innovation as I was, this is a great book with high impact. The myths like "we love new ideas", "your boss knows more than you", and "the best ideas wins" are experiences I went through without noticing they were issues shared by many other people. If you are active in innovation (the real one, not just the use of the keyword), then you should really read it and you will have fun!
- rating Amazon – 4.5/5.0 (118 reviews)
- my rating – 4.5/5.0
- fun factor - 4.5/5.0
- simplicity - 5.0/5.0
- impact - 4.0/5.0