There Are No Easy Steps
I want to return to my original definition of innovation ”…an act of sustained creativity…” It is helpful to dig into what it takes to arrive at an act of creativity that has sustainable potential. While innovation is not as clearly definable as, say, changing the tire on a car, it does having something in common with a tire change–it takes work.
5 Hard Steps
I can say I have observed and participated in a number of creative ideas that developed to the point of sustainability, that I can therefore rightly call “innovations.” The following steps can be identified as part of the process:
1. Read in as many areas of interest as you have, and read deeply. Be particularly keen to read and study outside of your immediate field of inquiry. Cross-applications, metaphors, and analogies often lead to breakthroughs in ideas and applications. What is needed is not only expertise in an area, but also the ability to make connections between areas of inquiry;
2. If you don’t already read poetry, start reading it. For those of us that deal with words and ideas in our creative tasks, poetry provides a helpful and beautiful window to the world that scientific description misses. A perfect example of this is the poetry of the Bible, which advances our understanding far better than a mere operational manual would do;
3. Ask “Why?” a lot, and look for the simple, transforming answer. This is the lesson we learn over and over again from the great innovator, Leonardo da Vinci. Lenny would ask “perchè” over and over when approaching a challenge or a problem. We find the word in his writings and notebooks. He was not afraid to ask the strange questions and the questions that others were apparently not asking;
4. Look at other boxes and find out how they operate. I find that innovation happens, more often than not, by looking at a situation through another box, not just “outside the box”. While the new path or idea may indeed be outside of your operational box, it might be a common path if viewed through another box;
5. Look to collaborative cerebration as a way to generate new facts, ideas, and approaches to challenge. As we look to the work of collaboration, we have to keep in mind that we want diversity of thinking, that diversity brings tension, and that new ways are discovered as a result of working through the tension, not as some theory that is known up front and worked through during the collaborative process. In other words, collaboration “stumbles upon” ways to innovation.
© 2014 Creator Magazine All Rights Reserved