Innovation: A Matter of Perspective
Innovation is a matter of perspective. When the bucket swinging in the well was replaced with a hand lever pump at the well head, some may have called it innovative. When the hand lever pump was replaced with an electric pump – some may have called this innovation. In fact these were simply extensions or enhancements to doing the same thing.
Once the idea of adding a water tower (the concept of applying water pressure) or a compression tank to serve a network of pipes taking water into a “water closet,” now, there was innovation.
Simply fixing a problem is not innovating. Innovating is also not conjuring up a solution seeking a problem to solve. Throughout my career, innovation was inspired through our shortcomings; often derived as the byproducts of our mistakes; through obscure thinking about unmet needs; through perverse potential application of existing thought… in short, taking elements of a known and applying it to elements of an unknown to predict a potential breakthrough.
Innovation begins and ends with people. Everyone who interacts with anyone can recognize an opportunity for improvement and innovation. Each person must be empowered and feel encouraged to explore, discover, nurture and introduce incremental enhancements into every interaction, no matter how big and no matter how small…. Individually and in teams. Innovation is found in sparks, not in single large explosions.
When asked about the mythological character of Icarus, what largely comes to mind? The mortal who dared to soar too close to the sun and angered the Gods and fell to the earth? This speaks to the common frame of mind.
Why is it that too few choose to marvel at the genius required to master the act of flight itself?
Innovation has to be encouraged and woven into the way we approach everything we do. It shouldn’t be discouraged to question the status quo.
Challenge the common perspective. It may not be as simple as “Is the glass have empty or is it have full?” Perhaps - the real question is maybe the glass is the wrong size?
- I dentify Opportunity
- C reate the Vision
- A rticulate the Steps
- R ally the Resources
- U nblock Obstacles
- S tay the Course
To remain with the Icarus analogy:
The Key? Invite. Involve. Inspire. Inform. Include. Incentivize. Inquire.
Cautionary note: People can make it or break it. Let’s face it. Change is one of the easiest words in the English language to sound out. To spell. To say. And yet, it is one of most frightening words for most people. Eagerly acceptable… as long as “everybody else does it!” Innovation suffers a stain from the curse of the word change …so special care needs to be taken. Innovation is often feared as equalling change and thus is something people try to avoid--- expend a great deal of energy to dismiss and/or expose as a waste of time and/or unnecessary. If it were easy – everybody would do it.