17 Disastrous Myths of Innovation You Must Beware
How does your organization come up with new ideas? And how do they use those ideas to create successful new products, services, businesses, and solutions? To be most successful, you must eliminate these myths of innovation.
The problem is never how to get new ideas into your mind, but how to eliminate the old ideas.
Check out our thoughts on building innovation.
Do you always drive to work the same way? Most likely. Do you read the same type of publications? Often. How about TV and the Internet? Watching the same group of shows or using the same set of websites is also a common habit. When you do this, how do you feel? You get a lot of familiar and comfortable feelings.
But true innovation often doesn’t make us comfortable. It makes us uncomfortable. And yet, it is in that discomfort that the new ways, the new ideas, and the new feelings come to light. When you drive to work via a different route, you see different places and sights. If you go to the newsstand and peruse the magazines that you never otherwise look at, you will see things you simply would never think about otherwise.
Given these results, let’s examine these myths of innovation:
People love change
Many people believe everybody loves to change and be changed.
The simple fact is that there is a ton of people who resist any change. They are very risk adverse, and change makes them very uncomfortable.
There is always a clear path to creativity … rewards
Many people believe that the best ideas come where the best incentive rewards are offered.
Daniel Pink discussed research in his book “Drive” where rewards were shown to have a modest effect on generating new ideas at best and negative effect in the worst situations. Pink demonstrated that with the complex and more creative style of 21stcentury jobs, traditional rewards could lead to less of what is wanted and more of what is not wanted.
The belief is that most innovations are composed of totally new thoughts.
The simple fact is new ideas are built from the combining of older ideas. The novelty comes from the application of the idea or combination of idea and application, not the idea itself.
The myths of innovation summary … experience and expertise
Team members often sit back in the hope that the smartest or most experienced among them will come through. Smart is certainly important, as is experience, but the best innovations come from those on the fringes of the subject area or an entirely different subject area expertise.
Those who continuously come up with the newest ideas are ones who are great at cultivating minds from different fields and can most efficiently connect the dots. Old lessons from a different field applied to the new field.
We can certainly find many examples of teams where cohesiveness abound, but innovation was severely lacking.
But the simple fact is that conflict is equally as important as cohesiveness in generating ideas. Many companies build conflict into the ideation process for this reason.
Innovation rarely happens in a vacuum. As the author Steve Johnson says, chance favors the connected minds. When people are together, talking, laughing, thinking, exploring — they’re going to throw out ideas. These ideas trigger something in someone else’s mind, and it snowballs. Before long, this group of folks has developed a creative change that wouldn’t have been possible without the collective collaboration.
See our article on Generating Ideas by Convergent Thinking
The saying goes that if you have the best mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.
This path is not the usual case, however. Often the best innovations are rejected initially. There are many examples … here are two good ones. Kodak invented the digital camera and never took it to market. Smith Corona built a superb word processor and yet decided to stay with the typewriter, its bread and butter.
Many assume that the best insights come to us in a flash of brilliance.
The best ideas typically require a time of incubation in our subconscious. We do best when we constantly shift from one task to another to allow our minds to do something different for our best idea germination.
Best ideas win
The cream always rises to the top. And the best innovations are like the cream.
But the simple fact is that the best ones are not necessarily or readily recognized as the best. Most often, they never get to the winner’s circle.
The best ideas come from the best combination of genes.
No evidence supports an “idea” gene or personality type. On the other hand, there is a wealth of evidence that shows there is potential inside of everyone. The best place to see this is in young children.
Most people tend to believe that the best innovation comes from single, very smart individuals.
The truth is that most breakthrough innovations come from collaborative teams. For example, Thomas Edison had 15 other inventors working with him. Likewise, Michelangelo had 13 other painters helping paint the Sistine Chapel. The best teams are diverse and include both new and more experienced collaborators.
Ok, now we have overcome these myths on innovation, here are some useful ways how to help move toward a more innovative culture in your business:
Be a detective
Creatives and innovators always have enquiring minds. Are you and the team asking enough questions to get deeper and understand the problem as much as you can?
Myths of innovation … foster adaptability
Change and adaptability have a great ability to drive innovative thinking. Innovative thinking is best when built around a process and can be taught. There are many courses that teach people different innovative techniques. Give your employees opportunity to acquire skills that will help them become more productive and proficient in what they are doing.
Foster risk taking
Zappos as a company is known as much for its culture as for its innovative business model. The company has built a business that is growing rapidly by allowing individuals the freedom to take creative risks without that overwhelming sense of fear or judgment.
They tell their employees to say what you think, even if it is controversial. Make tough decisions without agonizing excessively. Take smart risks. Question actions inconsistent with business values.
Here is another interesting example: A software company in Boston gives each team member two “corporate get-out-of-jail-free” cards each year. The cards allow the holder to take risks and suffer no repercussions for mistakes associated with them. At annual reviews, leaders question their team members if the cards are not used. It is a great way to encourage risk-taking and experimentation. Think this company comes up with amazing ideas? Absolutely.
Readily accept mistakes and failure
There is no success without failure. Ask any successful person and they will confirm that they have failed in life but that their failures made them stronger and even more determined to go on. It is perfectly OK to fail as long as we learn from our mistakes. Your employees should not fear failure because it will kill their desire to create new and unusual ideas.
In many companies, people are so afraid of making mistakes that they don’t pursue their dreams. The simply follow the rules and keep their heads down, which drives nothing but mediocrity.
James Dyson, the inventor of the Dyson Vacuum cleaner, “failed” at more than 5,100 prototypes before getting it just right. In fact, nearly every breakthrough innovation in history came after countless setbacks, mistakes, and “failures.” The best innovators and achievers weren’t necessarily smarter or inherently more talented. They simply released their fear of failure and kept trying. They didn’t let setbacks or misfires extinguish their curiosity, imagination, and ability to change.
Failing means taking risks and increasing the rate of experimentation… and exploring. Some bets will pay off; some will fail. The key is to fail quickly. The speed of business has increased dramatically and every minute counts. The best businesses try lots of ideas and let the losers go quickly and with no remorse.
Try the quantity approach to innovations. Use brainstorming to improve divergent thinking. Study and then connect ideas to get new ideas.
Add play to equation
When looking for fresh new thinking to solve a problem, shake things up by adding some fun and play with the process. It always can shed the stress and pressure on a team
Do as much experimentation as you can. Don’t worry about failures and allow the team to question any and all assumptions and consider even the craziest ideas.
The bottom line
As we change at a faster and faster pace, ideas adequate yesterday are no longer are good enough. And with digital disruption facing an increasing number of industries, most firms must come up with the best ideas for change or move to a slow failure. The myths of new ideas must be set aside to let the new idea facts take over.
Need some help in improving the innovation process for you and your staff? Innovative ideas to help the differentiation with your toughest competitors? Or maybe ways to innovate new products and services?
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Do you have a lesson about making your innovation learning better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of business. Find him on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change. We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
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