Thursday, November 08, 2007

the myths of innovation: there is a method for innovation

In the last two days, I have posted a summary of the first and second chapters of Scott Berkun's book, the myths of innovation. In the third chapter, Scott shows that despite the conventional belief that there is a systematic approach to innovation, there is not such a thing, hence the myth: There is a method for innovation.

The myths stipulates that there is a methodological (or systematic) approach to innovating – more so that can be read in cookbooks or how-to manuals. Taken this way, there are myth posits that there are calculated risks and steps toward an innovation. Paradoxically, if there are known steps or risks toward an idea then it is not new and therefore not an innovation.

Innovators are driven by unsystematic desire, curiosity and dreams. These in themselves do not translate to an innovation until they are translated to a commitment – to hard work in a certain direction that might extend for years. However, there can be a direction change when new knowledge or an intended innovation arises. In the equation, there are personal interests and ambitions that drive people during the innovation process. In addition, a number of innovators are driven by the quest to make more money. Clearly, a mesh of factors contribute to the basic need to innovate, and with the different combinations, there cannot be a single methodology for innovation.

There are however common challenges that all innovators face including finding an idea (creating the initial curiosity); developing a solution to their idea; sponsorship and funding of the innovation process; reproduction of the solution so that it can be optimized for profit; reaching the potential customers; beating the competitors; proper timing on when to announce the innovation; and keeping the lights on. These challenges are further influenced exponentially by the unpredictability of the innovations, and the intended market or customer base.

However, there are paths that can make the innovation process easier or manageable: Self knowledge so that decisions are guided awareness of environments or challenges; passionate intensity toward success and willingness to look back and reconsider assumptions; starting it small and growing as new insights and ideas are realized; and honoring luck and the past – “acknowledging that you can do everything right and fail, and do many things wrong and succeed.” (Berkun, 2007, p. 51)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

the myths of innovation: We understand the history of innovation

Yesterday, I posted a summary of the first chapter of Scott Berkun's book, the myths of innovation. As interesting as the first chapter is the second one. It rubbishes the idea that the history of innovation can be completely understood - or written.

What makes history? Who defines it? What defines a hero(ine) or heroism?
People and events are transformed to legends and legendaries as an effect of time – all the times. Their (people and events in history) are influenced by “circumstance, world politics and chance” (Berkun, 2007, p. 21) and the location the people are and the events take place.

Further history is written by people after events have shaped up meaning a) that what goes in the history books is not necessarily the truth b) that history is written as a means to a certain predefined end e.g profit for book sale, political advancement of an agenda c) that due to the diverse sources of information historians use, they are bound to impose their perspectives or opinions as facts d) there is a possibility that crucial facts about a historical event are overlooked and e) Oversimplification of historical events so that they can fit a certain timeline, that does not necessarily show any relationship between when the event in question happened and when it started.

When these shortcomings of history and its making are applied in the field of innovations, they lead to a number of assumptions or beliefs such as a) every innovation being adopted is an improvement in all spheres and contexts of the innovation it replaces b) representation of historical events as timelines while in essence there might be no direct progression (without detours or feedbacks) on the timeline.

From the foregoing discussion, it is illogical to assume or believe that we understand the history of innovation.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

the myths of innovation: Innovators and the myths of epiphany

I am back to blogging after a well deserved break.

I am currently reading Scott Berkun's book, the myths of innovation. It is good in informing me about research am doing for my doctorate on adoption of eLearning. The first chapter is very interesting, which in away questions where good (or great ideas) come from, and how they are generated.

Where do great ideas come from and how are they produced?
The myth of epiphany – a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something – posits that whenever an innovation arises or is reported, tales of its magic moments are the first to appear. This is more so because myths are “often more satisfying … than the truth” (Berkun, 2007, p. 6). When innovations are being reported a number of myths go with them: Newton’s apple story and gravity; Archimedes and the bath tub;

However, innovations don’t happen in just one magical moment, and they are not completely new either. They are a build up of (hitherto unknown) innovations, a combination at times – where if any of the components is missing the innovations would not be realized. Therefore, imagining that epiphany plays a pivotal role in the innovation process is misguided. Probably, the epiphany – or the magical moments come when the last bit or last piece of an innovation is put into place, or when something being made for a different purpose realises some new use (e.g. Viagra).

One thing that arises though through the myth of epiphany is that there is need for innovators or creative thinkers to take breaks (go under apple trees; take a bath) so that they can experience the magical moment (the Eureka or wow moment).

This reminded me of my physics lessons whenever I encountered the famous inventors. I used to have a perception of them being lazy. In the Newton and the apples instance, I could add...
Newton was (probably) so lazy to climb on to the tree, or get some form of scaffold to get apples from the tree. Instead, he spent most of the time under the tree waiting for the apples to fall. The idea of him questioning gravity, in this case, came when he was fully satisfied? His question therefore was now that I am satisfied, why are the apples still falling (on me) instead (for example) of flying up?