I’ve been thinking much about the idea of INNOVATION lately. You hear it used so much. It gets thrown around in board rooms and program rooms, on product packages and TV shows. But how do we get to innovation? Two thoughts have come to me about how we often get there. You could call it innovation-by-demand, or innovation-by-command…what I’m thinking about is the idea that often innovation happens either when we hit the proverbial brick wall and have no other option than to innovate, try “something new,” go in a different direction. Or innovation happens in the “back room.” This is when one or more individuals get together from one or more organizations or agencies and dream up an idea that is just–well, dreamy. To them. And then the worker bees (and perhaps a grant administrator) are pulled out to do the work. Reports are written, justifications are given…and we all live happily ever after. Right? But neither of these is true innovation. These are about handshakes or hardships. Neither of these modes allow an organization to be poised for innovation. These modes of “innovating” (which I believe happen more often than we’d care to admit) cheat us from the opportunities to create needs-based, natural innovative programs and services because we’re too busy jumping through the hoops of our dreamed-up innovative(well, really, “unnovative”) ideas. What would happen if we just let things happen naturally? Trees might grow, real relationships might emerge, brick walls might begin to crumble.
Yes. I think what we sometimes stumble over in this business of innovation is that it should be done in one prescribed way. Just as we are all individuals we all have different ways of changing. I think Tom Kelly helps in understanding this with his latest book on the 10 Faces of Innovation.