I had some fun making this podcast 😉 My first attempt at a podcast, ever. Please leave your comments below.
TRANSCRIPT:Today I want to talk a little about the difference between ideas and innovation. In our society, we will often hear from friends, family, or strangers about a great idea that they had for a product or service. Most of the time, these ideas involve something that has never been done before, so we would quickly refer to them as innovation. Because, after all, innovation means doing something new, right? Well, not so fast. If we assume that the only requisite requirement of innovation is that the idea being innovated is new in some way, then almost anything could fly as innovation – even two potato peelers super glued together in a plastic bag. After all, two potato peelers super glued together in a plastic bag is new, isn’t it? I surely can’t think of a single business out there that sells such a product. But now we can see how it wouldn’t be smart to make the only requirement for innovation that something is new. Instead, to truly be innovative, the product or service needs to do something better than it was done before. In order for that idea to innovate, it cannot simply be new. Once again, two super glued potato peelers in a plastic bag is new but it has no functional value, doesn’t solve a problem, and doesn’t improve upon an existing product or service.
So what’s the point? In short, we need to treat innovation as two dependent things if we want success. You see, most ideas don’t ever become reality. There are different reasons for this of course, one reason often being that you need to execute an actual physical plan in order to bring an idea to life. But the other reason is that some of our ideas are only that: ideas without innovation. And I would wager to say that an idea that doesn’t innovate (in at least one aspect) will never be able to support its weight in business. Why, for example, would you buy a black and white TV in 2017? Aside from any antique value or low price, it’s hard to make a compelling sales pitch for such a product.
Now that we’ve established the importance of considering innovation when we come up with ideas, let’s talk a little about where innovation comes from and some ways we can nurture its growth.
I watched a presentation by Steven Johnson called “Where Good Ideas Come From”, and it gave some insight into the subject. The basic observation that he makes is this: good ideas (and for our purposes, innovative ideas) typically do not come from an individual person in isolation. Instead, it is the collective back-and-forth debate of ideas between two or more people that creates them. Johnson illustrates this point by citing that at times in history where minds were able to gather more often to “mingle”, advancements were made at a quicker pace. This leads me to a question I want to ask you: are you making time to intellectually mingle with others? This goes beyond simple chatter about the weather, sports, and the like. It’s deeper than all of that. It’s the sort of conversation that makes you pause to think before responding. It’s the type of conversation that makes you ask tough questions, and when its over, it was the type of conversation that leaves you searching for more information so that you are ready to build upon that conversation the next time you speak. I think we should really make time for intellectual mingling more than we do – the rewards will make us sharper, more keen, and make way for more innovative ideas.
Before we conclude, I want to better ground what we’ve discussed so far into the business realm. Let’s bring this topic into the everyday operations of a company. How can the company come up with good, innovative ideas so that growth can continue? One idea: let the employees intellectually mingle and problem solve without fear of being “scorned” or pessimistic. We saw how great conversations can lead to innovation, but in many companies today, these great conversations will never happen. Why? Because when employees do speak up about a function of the company that could be improved, they are shut down with arguments that go like “this is how we have always done it”, “we tried something like that 20 years ago”, or “who cares? I won’t benefit from it.” As a result of these responses, employees all too often keep quiet and their spark of innovation eventually dies – which slows or halts the growth of the business. Managers clearly need to create an environment where criticism and critique are welcome. Only then will they create an environment that allows the intellectual mingling of minds so as to create innovative ideas that go beyond simple novelty and into lasting change. And that’s the difference between ideas and innovation, and where innovation comes from. Thank you for listening!