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What is Innovation?

What is Innovation?
Poor innovation. It’s a word that’s right up there with “producer” and “empowerment” in terms of having had its core meaning diluted and usurped until its own mom wouldn’t recognize it anymore. By way of perhaps giving it back some dignity, here are 5 thoughts from my perpetually evolving work called “Zennovation-The Art of the Net Present Moment”.
  1. There is a difference between a “cool idea” and innovation. For innovation to occur, something has to actually happen. Something has to move. Something has to be built, go to market, be tried, produce a different result with a novel input. There is also a relationship between innovation and cool ideas. Its easily expressed as a ratio and it’s about 1000:0.05.
  2. Innovation obeys the “law of creative quanta”. If you add energy to an atom, electrons JUMP from one electron shell to the next highest. They don’t mosey, they don’t stroll and they don’t creep. Innovation is the same. Once enough of the two primary innovation energy sources are applied in the right reactor (more on those later), the innovation “particles” (innovatrons?) JUMP from current-state to RADICALLY-different-state. Successful innovation isn’t incremental. It goes big.
  3. Innovation energy comes from two sources. One is Artistry- The practice of a skill set allowing the practitioner to express the skill in a form or forms. The other is Creativity- The ability to synthesize that which has never been from fragments of that which is part objectively real and part mind. When these two energies come together in an applied confluence channeled by intentional action over time for a specific purpose-you get Innovation.
  4. The biggest threat to innovation is success. Success creates comfort with and dogmatic attachment to the status quo defended by an emperors army of gatekeepers, fuss-budgets, harrumphers, haranguers and saboteurs. Good innovation happens when there is some pain. The BEST innovation happens however when things are great and there is enough courage to say “Yes! Things are great! Lets burn them all down and do it better!”
  5. Mostly, innovations will fail. They have to. If you never fall down when you ski, you never get better and faster and you rarely have any fun. What happens when innovations fail? You get up, wipe the snow off and point the skis down the hill again. You measure, you understand, you tweak and you re-launch. Cultures of innovation have this woven into their tribal customs. If you metaphorically “shoot the innovators” when something doesn’t work the first time out of the box (or the second, or the third), you are destined for mediocracy.
In the keynote talks and workshops I give on innovation, and in the book, I use a framework of ten components that when deeply embedded in a community of work, create the fertile field for innovation. I’ll leave you with them and if you want to talk more about any, shoot me an e-mail. They are Acceptance, Openness, Community, Love, Appreciation, Play, Purpose, Inclusivity, Iconoclasm and Courage. (No, they don’t spell anything)!
Bob Allen
A nationally recognized speaker, Bob has presented to various groups that include the U.S. Air Force, Association of Travel Marketing Executives, Allied Travel Organization, National Telecommunications Conference to name a few.