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The Myths Of Innovation


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The Myths Of Innovation

  1. 2. The Myths of Innovation AUTHOR: Scott Berkun PUBLISHER: O’Reilly Media, Inc. DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2007 NUMBER OF PAGES: 192 pages
  2. 3. <ul><li>In this book, author Scott Berkun takes a close look at innovation history, including the software and Internet ages, to reveal how ideas truly become successful innovations – truths that can be applied to the challenges of today. </li></ul><ul><li>The book uses innovation myths to understand how innovations take place. Each chapter identifies and discusses one innovation myth, explains why it is popular, and, lastly, uses the history of innovations, both recent and ancient, to teach the truth behind the myths. </li></ul>THE BIG IDEA
  3. 4. Why You Need This Book <ul><li>Using dozens of examples from the history of technology, business and the arts, this book will teach you to learn how to convert your knowledge into ideas that can change the world. </li></ul><ul><li>The book intends to clarify how innovation happens by taking on business, scientific and technological innovation all at once, to enable you to gain a better understanding of the world around you and to be able to avoid mistakes should you attempt to innovate as well. </li></ul>
  4. 5. <ul><li>Where do ideas come from? This question is on the mind of anyone who visits a research lab or an inventor’s studio or an artist’s workshop. It’s the secret we hope to see – the magic that takes place where new things are born, where world-changing ideas come from – they have always proven elusive. </li></ul><ul><li>For centuries before hotbeds of innovation such as Google, IDEO and MIT came into existence, humanity struggled to explain any kind of creation. For the most part, popular answers have been unconvincing – enabling fantasy-laden myths to grow strong. </li></ul><ul><li>Two of the grandest idea-creation myths : </li></ul><ul><li>The story of Isaac Newton and the discovery of gravity , in which Newton was sitting under a tree when an apple fell on his head and the idea of gravity was supposedly born. </li></ul><ul><li>The tale of Archimedes’ Eureka – he was asked by his king to detect whether a gift was made of false gold, and supposedly did so by accident upon observing the displacement of water as he stepped into his bath. </li></ul>The Myth of Epiphany
  5. 6. <ul><li>These myths are stories of an epiphany or a “sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something”. The word has religious origins – its first use meant that all insight came from divine power – and although today its religious connotations have been mostly forgotten, what remains is that we don’t know where the idea came from and aren’t willing to take the credit for it. </li></ul><ul><li>To disprove these and other such myths, we have to remember that ideas never stand alone. Any and every seemingly grand idea can be subdivided into an infinite series of smaller, previously known ideas. Similar patterns exist in the work of innovation itself; for most there is no singular magic moment. Instead, there are many smaller insights accumulated over time. </li></ul><ul><li>The best way to think of epiphany is to imagine working on a jigsaw puzzle. Epiphany is the moment when the last piece of work fits into place. However, that last piece really is no more magical than any of the others – and, moreover, has no magic without its connection to the other pieces. </li></ul><ul><li>One final point – to look at this from another angle, no grand innovation in history has ever escaped the long hours required to take an insight and shape it into a form that the world can use . The big idea has to be broken down into its constituent parts that can be built or even attempted before said idea can be realized. </li></ul>The Myth of Epiphany
  6. 7. <ul><li>Ordinary things, people and events are transformed into legends by the forces of time. The Rosetta Stone, the key to sorting out the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic language, and Johannes Gutenberg, the celebrated inventor of the printing press, were not appreciated for what they mean to us in their times. </li></ul><ul><li>Their influence and impact owes as much to circumstance, world politics and chance as to their inherent value or skill. In their time they were perceived in a radically different way than we see them now. </li></ul><ul><li>There is a lesson here for us: when the legends we know so well today were becoming legendary, they were rarely if ever seen as legends. </li></ul>We Understand the History of Innovation
  7. 8. <ul><li>Some points: </li></ul><ul><li>The stories told in many schools present innovators like Gutenberg as obvious, logical and necessary contributors, which beg the assumption that if we were alive when they were, we would have seen them the same way as we do now. This obviously is far from the truth. </li></ul><ul><li>In addition, any legend of innovation will find natural omissions by history. History can’t give attention to what’s been lost, hidden or deliberately buried! It’s mostly a telling of success – and not the partial failures that enable success. Many of the heroes we idolize were far from perfect; popular history neglects to mention their failings. </li></ul><ul><li>The innovations in the past were far from inevitable . There are no guarantees that grant that these innovations really would have come into existence no matter what – or, moreover, that the situations that persist today are the inevitable consequences of history! </li></ul>We Understand the History of Innovation
  8. 9. <ul><li>We also tend to forget that when an innovation was in progress, there are always competitors . The process by which an innovation gains superiority over the competition is an open, competitive, experiment-rich playing field. </li></ul><ul><li>The winners of this process are the ones that become feted, while the losers are usually forgotten . At best, timelines only show one path of the full tree of innovation history. </li></ul>We Understand the History of Innovation
  9. 10. <ul><li>A methodology is defined as a systematic way of accomplishing something . There is a belief that a playbook exists for innovation – a distinct and definite process similar to that followed in, say, chemistry experiments – and, if followed faithfully, will remove risk from the process of finding new ideas. </li></ul><ul><li>However, there is no way to avoid all risks when doing new things! It takes resources to start a company, develop an idea or even change someone’s mind – and those investments never have any guaranteed returns. There can be no perfect beginning to innovation; plus once you start you have to evaluate and decide to shift directions or start over with the insight, perspective and experience you’ve gained. </li></ul><ul><li>In addition, luck is a big part of business life and perhaps the biggest part of entrepreneurial life as well. </li></ul>There is a Method for Innovation
  10. 11. <ul><li>That said, though, some patterns to the source of innovation do exist: </li></ul><ul><li>Hard work in a specific direction. The majority of innovations come from dedicated people working hard to solve a problem. </li></ul><ul><li>Hard work with direction change. Many an innovation starts as mentioned previously, but an unexpected opportunity arises and is pursued midway through. </li></ul><ul><li>Curiosity. Many innovations begin with bright minds pursuing interests. </li></ul><ul><li>Wealth and money. Some innovations are driven by the pursuit of cash. </li></ul><ul><li>Necessity. Individuals have innovated to seek something they couldn’t find. </li></ul><ul><li>Combination. Most innovations involve more than one of these factors. </li></ul>There is a Method for Innovation
  11. 12. <ul><li>The challenges to innovation : </li></ul><ul><li>Find an idea. Ideas can come from just anywhere! </li></ul><ul><li>Develop a solution. An idea is one thing; a working solution is another. </li></ul><ul><li>Sponsorship and funding. You may not have the capital to develop the idea or solution by yourself. </li></ul><ul><li>Reproduction. It can be difficult to scale something, especially if you need 100,000 pieces of whatever it is you are making. </li></ul><ul><li>Reach your potential customer. An idea is NOT an innovation until it reaches people. You have to reach the people the innovation’s designed for! </li></ul><ul><li>Beat your competitors. You won’t be alone at trying to get your ideas up and running. </li></ul><ul><li>Timing. As great as your idea is, will people accept it when it’s finished? It may be too revolutionary for your time (many past innovators had this problem). </li></ul><ul><li>Keep the lights on. The bills will keep coming while you’re struggling with all these things. </li></ul>There is a Method for Innovation
  12. 13. <ul><li>Lastly – but far from the least – here are paths of innovation , or ways of thinking about them that can shift the odds in your favor: </li></ul><ul><li>Self-knowledge. Being aware of the environments or challenges that inspire the best results for your personality can help you make smart path choices. </li></ul><ul><li>Be intense, but step back. Be ready to hear hard truths; maintain the courage to question, rethink and commit again. </li></ul><ul><li>Grow to size. Start small and attack a specific problem in a known field. Grow your ambition with your success. </li></ul><ul><li>Honor luck and the past – the sacrifices of your predecessors. Acknowledge that you are standing on the shoulders of giants! </li></ul>There is a Method for Innovation
  13. 14. <ul><li>Every great idea in history has the fat red stamp of rejection on its face . Every innovator who cooked up these ideas has had to deal with a lot of skepticism before meeting success. </li></ul><ul><li>The love of new ideas is really a myth; we prefer ideas only after others have already tested them. We reuse ideas and opinions all the time and don’t really trust in the truly new – we’re being smart by doing so, hedging our bets. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s only human to fear suffering due to forced change and to avoid this when able. Innovation asks for faith in something unknown and thus far from risk-free over something known to be safe or even pleasant. Even great minds have been guilty of this. </li></ul><ul><li>This situation – where an innovator has to challenge the status quo, which may include previous innovations that some people have struggled to build all their lives – is known as the Innovator’s Dilemma . As people and companies age, they have more to lose, and attitudes focused on security, risk aversion and optimization of the status quo eventually become dominant. </li></ul>People Love New Ideas
  14. 15. Innovators and would-be innovators alike must take note of this: innovative ideas are rarely rejected on their merits; they’re rejected because of how they make people feel. So these innovators can’t and shouldn’t forget people’s concerns and feelings when they design and present innovations. Here are five factors that define how quickly innovations spread: Relative advantage. The value the new thing has compared to the old. (Perceived advantage, determined by the potential customer.) Compatibility. How much effort to transition to the new thing is needed? If the cost is greater than the advantage, most people won’t try it. Complexity. How much learning is required to try the new thing? The smaller the perceived conceptual gap, the higher the rate of acceptance. Trialability. How easy is it to try the innovation? The easier it is, the higher the acceptance rate. Observability. How visible are the results of the innovation? The more visible the advantage, the faster the rate of adoption. People Love New Ideas
  15. 16. The Lone Inventor <ul><li>Popular credit for major innovations isn’t always given to the right people; it’s often driven by markets, circumstance, and popularity – forces not bound by accuracy. Other factors, such as people coming up with the same innovation at the same time, or the sub-innovations that had to take place in order for an innovation to become reality, also serve to muddle the truth. </li></ul><ul><li>Innovation history is complicated; it’s always made up of threads and relationships that don’t separate easily or yield simple answers, such as who really invented a certain gadget (or whether only one inventor can really take credit for said invention in the first place). The departure from the truth takes place because it’s simply easier to remember. </li></ul><ul><li>We want innovation explained in neat packages, but we also want to acclaim the right people for them. Rarely do both happen simultaneously. </li></ul>
  16. 17. Good Ideas are Hard to Find <ul><li>Humans, young and old, are built for creative thinking. So-called creative thinkers are not bothered by inconsistencies, departures from convention, non-literalness, and often run with unusual ideas that most adults are too rigid, arrogant or afraid to entertain. The difference between creative people and others is more because of attitude and experience than nature itself. </li></ul><ul><li>Idea reuse, however, is so easy and convenient that people can go for years before feeling the need to find ideas of their own. Even our educative and professional systems push the idea-finding secrets of fun and play to the corners of our minds and train us out of our creativity. It doesn’t help that a prevailing myth exists that good ideas will look the part when found – the future never, ever enters the present as a finished product. </li></ul><ul><li>The truth is that we all have innate skills for finding ideas and solving problems; most of us have just lost our way. </li></ul>
  17. 18. Good Ideas are Hard to Find <ul><li>Unlike the mythical epiphany (as discussed earlier), real creation is sloppy . Discovery is messy and exploration can be dangerous; most of what’s found will not be satisfactory. Creative work will not fit neatly into plans, budgets and schedules. </li></ul><ul><li>Some points contributory to finding ideas, then: </li></ul><ul><li>Our minds work as filters. If you want new ideas, you have to slide toward openness by turning some filters off – and exploring thoughts you’d ordinarily reject offhand. Do this until some interesting thoughts come up, and then turn some of the filters on until a handful that is both interesting and practical come up. (It’s not only about having an open mind; you also have to know when to judge and when not to judge.) </li></ul><ul><li>Remember that the core message of brainstorming is that you have facts (data and information), ideas (possibilities) and solutions (answers to problems) and you have to spend time with all of them. </li></ul><ul><li>Regarding idea genesis, produce as many ideas as possible; produce ideas as wild as possible; build upon each other’s ideas; and avoid passing judgment. </li></ul>
  18. 19. Your Boss Knows More About Innovation Than You <ul><li>Those in power can make decisions others can’t, but that doesn’t mean they have the wisdom or the experience to do it well. There are exceptional managers out there, but they’re very hard to find. It’s easy to overlook people’s lack of talent by misplacing faith in their power. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s easy to assume that the manager has a better perspective on the viability of an idea because of his or her superior experience of the industry. But these are exactly the factors that work against innovation . High experience and confidence make some managers the greatest resistors to new ideas, as they have the most to lose. </li></ul><ul><li>Here are five challenges to managing innovation: </li></ul><ul><li>Life of ideas. The best idea-finding sessions in the world are useless if that creative energy goes nowhere. It’s what’s done with ideas that matters! </li></ul><ul><li>The environment. Encourage a free discourse of ideas, including open criticism and debate. Put innovation at the center. Make sure people are comfortable with and unafraid of new ideas. </li></ul><ul><li>The protection. Managers can offer cover fire for their staff’s ideas, which is something that their staff cannot do for themselves. Life is a zero-sum game and the resources for innovation must come at the expense of something else. All innovations run on political capital, which the manager has more of than his or her staff. </li></ul><ul><li>The execution. This is to shepherd an idea down the path from conception to realization – and it’s the hardest task faced by managers of innovation. They have to deal with all the details that were waved away or overlooked earlier. The challenge is to make the right sacrifices at the right time: too much idealism vs. too little of it. </li></ul><ul><li>Persuasion. Innovators don’t always have all the cards, so they have to ask others for help to make things happen. It fuels innovation at all levels. Every successful innovation depends on getting people to believe in things that have not been done before. </li></ul>
  19. 20. Your Boss Knows More About Innovation Than You The environment. Encourage a free discourse of ideas, including open criticism and debate. Put innovation at the center. Make sure people are comfortable with and unafraid of new ideas. The protection. Managers can offer cover fire for their staff’s ideas, which is something that their staff cannot do for themselves. Life is a zero-sum game and the resources for innovation must come at the expense of something else. The execution. This is to shepherd an idea down the path from conception to realization – and it’s the hardest task faced by managers of innovation. They have to deal with all the details that were waved away or overlooked earlier. Persuasion. Innovators don’t always have all the cards, so they have to ask others for help to make things happen. It fuels innovation at all levels. Every successful innovation depends on getting people to believe in things that have not been done before.
  20. 21. The Best Ideas Win <ul><li>The best ideas DON’T always win, but that doesn’t stop people from believing that they should. Fairy tales and hero stories follow similar patterns: good guys win and bad guys lose, and people who do the right thing get nice prizes. People want to believe that this is always the case, even if it isn’t. </li></ul><ul><li>The goodness or newness of an idea is only part of the system that determines which ideas win or lose; there are environmental or secondary factors which determine the fate of an idea: </li></ul><ul><li>Culture. Innovations do change societies, but they must first gain acceptance by aligning with existing values. </li></ul><ul><li>Dominant design. Many dominant designs achieve popularity on the back of another innovation. </li></ul><ul><li>Inheritance and tradition. Some people are comfortable with a particular idea based on tradition, and it’s easy to confuse comfort for a belief with it actually being good </li></ul>
  21. 22. The Best Ideas Win <ul><li>Politics. You can predict how people in power will respond to a new idea if you first calculate its impact on them. </li></ul><ul><li>Economics. Innovation is expensive; will the costs of changing to the new thing be worth it? </li></ul><ul><li>Goodness is always subjective. Get any number of people in a room and you’ll get different definitions of goodness. </li></ul><ul><li>Short-term vs. long-term thinking. Many superior ideas are rejected by people interested in either short-term or long-term goals. </li></ul>
  22. 23. Problems and Solutions <ul><li>Would-be innovators must spend enough time exploring and understanding problems before trying to solve them. </li></ul><ul><li>Successful innovation often involves more attention to problems than solutions. Discovering problems actually requires just as much creativity as discovering solutions. A properly defined problem is partially solved. </li></ul><ul><li>One way to help define a problem is to compare it to another kind of challenge that’s been solved in order to creatively frame the problem in such a way as to stimulate new ideas. You could try to see where the competition has failed, for instance, and try a different approach. Or you could try to explore the problem by envisioning it or making prototypes . </li></ul>
  23. 24. Problems and Solutions <ul><li>Legend has it that the microwave, Band-Aids, Nylon, X-rays, rubber soles and Viagra, among other breakthrough products, were discovered by accident. Innovation is supposedly random and those lucky enough to show up at the right place and the right time reap rewards. However, it’s what people do with the chance encounter that matters, and not the chance discovery itself. </li></ul><ul><li>In our everyday lives we encounter odd moments when we see things beyond the ordinary. Most of us simply ignore these moments or trivialize or discard them. However, for the innovator, these moments are the future knocking at the door . </li></ul>
  24. 25. Innovation is Always Good <ul><li>Not all innovation is good. What we casually term as good is never beneficial to everyone; it depends on who you are and where you stand. Sorting out the meaning and impact of innovations is more complex than the task of making the innovations themselves. </li></ul><ul><li>All innovations combine good and bad effects regardless of the intention of the innovator or how well designed they are. </li></ul><ul><li>Innovations can be good for you, for others, for an industry or economy, for a society, and/or for the world – or combinations thereof. However, no one knows, not even the inventors, how their creations will impact the world until they are used. </li></ul>
  25. 26. Innovation is Always Good <ul><li>In addition, most inventors believe that true breakthrough ideas are so different from our current thinking that we have no idea how to use them. This means that not only is the use of an innovation unpredictable, but the time and motivation for its acceptance is also unpredictable. </li></ul><ul><li>Lastly, it must be said that it’s both ridiculous and dangerous to think that an idea is good because it’s new and reject an idea because it’s old. It must be said that the best philosophy of innovation is to accept both change and tradition and to avoid the traps of absolutes. </li></ul>
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