I’ve been asking myself the question for a while now and each time I keep finding different answers. It’s not because I am confused, which I often am and think is what actually pushes me to become a better person every day, but more because the subject of “innovation” comes with many nuances and varies from one context to the other.
First of all I think it is important to frame the end goal of any innovation. Even here you might get different POVs (Points Of View), but in the business space I like to sum it up with the following logic: You change the status quo to improve it, the improvement makes it more efficient and by making it more efficient you increase the Δ (distance) between effort and benefit. Imagine being a street artist or a busker. What can you really do to up your game? If the goal in this instance is to grab people’s attention on the street, can you do it more efficiently without having to perform with an entire band and have to share revenue with them? Turns out, you can…
Now, while we might probably spend ages trying to define innovation, I think it might be more beneficial to focus on the key traces that help foster innovation.
I’ve tried to identify some, not all, key traits…
Take pleasure from using knowledge to find clever solutions to challenges…
The hacker culture is a subculture of individuals who enjoy the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming limitations of software systems to achieve novel and clever outcomes. The act of engaging in activities (such as programming or other media) in a spirit of playfulness and exploration is termed “hacking”
Discover new paths by allowing you imagination to flow.
Change perspective to find new strategies…
Before 1968, people used to high jump. on their belly. Dick Fosbury in 1968 Mexico City was the first athlete to ever jump on his back. 4 years later 28 out of 40 competitors used his technique and today it is the standard for high jump.
External pressure can be constructive…
On the same year Fosbury jumped at the olympics, Astronauts of the Apollo 8 took this first rare picture of the earth-rising over the lunar horizon.
One year later humankind would accomplish its greatest leap: Landing on the moon.
The story of the moon landing (a 10 years old adventure through Gemini and Apollo projects) is actually a great metaphor for how competition can push us way beyond our pre-set limits
“We need to fail here so we don’t fail up there”
Elon Musk’s Space X is currently on a trajectory to disrupt the industry as it did with Tesla in the automotive industry.
Falcon Heavy has 3 times the payload capabilities of the Delta IV heavy but costs 1/4. Such efficiency didn’t come. without costs, but they had planned for it.
Communicate, people can help you only if you share information
While we sometimes like to believe that some people are innovators and others are not, the truth is that everyone has a potential role to play: scientists and engineers, marketers and accountants, salespeople and production specialists. That’s why we need to treat collaboration as the ultimate competitive advantage, especially today, when the problems we need to solve are so much more complex than in the past.
We need to create a culture that inspires teamwork rather than just individual accomplishment. Great innovation happens when a diverse set of skills are integrated to effectively solve problems.
Truly breakthrough innovations are never a single event, nor are they achieved by one person, or even within a single organization. Rather, they happen when ideas combine to solve important problems
Be your first sponsor, find who believes in you…
Halley’s Comet that periodically returns to earth’s vicinity every 75 years wasn’t discovered by Edmond Halley but named after him as he was the first to conclude that the previous sightings in history were in fact of the same comet.
Why am a talking about Halley? Well, Halley was a rich astronomer and scientist who had embraced a challenge: find out the laws that rule the movements of celestial objects.
To tackle the challenge Halley relied on the help of a friend from Trinity College in Cambridge: Isaac Newton. Newton wrote Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica thanks to Halley’s sponsorship.
Why is this so important? Until then, we didn’t have to ask any more questions as the reason for all planets’ motion was an all-perfect clockmaker. With one foot still in the middle ages, Newton opened up humanity to new possibilities.
To conceive what’s included in Principia Matematica Newton had to invent Calculus and unlocked the doors for space travel (how to escape earth’s gravity – escape velocity).
An everchanging world…
The word BIT (binary digit) didn’t exist 70 years ago, Internet (ARPANET) was invented 50 years ago and people on the Internet would ALL know each other. Techonology allowed for disruption and innovation within industries at incredible speed.
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of time…
Fleming was a gifted biologist, but a poor communicator and when he published his results in 1929, few took notice. He was also not a chemist and so was unable to study the molecule in any detail. So instead of changing the world, the world’s first antibiotic remained buried as an obscure finding in a scientific journal.
It wasn’t until 1935, a decade later, that Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, discovered Fleming’s paper, immediately understood its importance and developed a method to produce penicillin in quantity. They first began experimenting in mice, then humans and saw incredible results. Clearly, this new miracle drug had the potential to transform medicine.
Yet still, to make an impact, penicillin had to be produced in massive quantities, something that was far out of the reach of two research chemists. Florey reached out to the Rockefeller Foundation which provided further funding for research into new fermentation methods so that the drug could be mass produced.
By 1943, with World War II raging, the War Production Board enlisted 21 companies to produce supplies for the war effort, saving countless lives and ushering in the new age of antibiotics. Fleming, Florey and Chain received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1945.
Never stop exploring…
My son is surely the biggest challenge of my life. Made me ask myself what kind of father I’d like to be and by doing so also made me realise what kind of man I’d like to be.
I spent a lot of time thinking what I could teach him (values, vision of life etc…) but then something finally clicked and I realised I shouldn’t be striving to fill him of information: I won’t be able to answer all his questions one day.
As I am naturally curious, I would love to be able to stimulate that same attitude in my son so he can find the answers to all his questions by himself… He should be able to hack his way through life.