Friday, July 27, 2007

Debunking the Myths of Innovation: An Interview with Scott Berkun

Creating a conducive environment for creativity and innovation ...

"In his research, Scott Berkun, the author of the popular new book, "The Myths of Innovation," has done a fantastic job of demystifying innovation and debunking dangerous assumptions about how breakthroughs happen. UIE's Christine Perfetti recently had the chance to talk with Scott about his new book and his research in the area of innovation.

UIE: In your book, you discuss the misconceptions about many of the biggest innovations in history. For example, you mention that Newton didn't discover gravity by watching apples and Thomas Edison didn't invent the light bulb. Why do you think these false beliefs are still so popular and memorable?

Scott Berkun: One of the biggest reasons is that the myths are fun. We all love stories that entertain or mystify us, and it's natural that given the choice between a dull story for how something happened, and an odd, curious or funny one, we'll tend to want to hear, and tell, the latter.

There's nothing wrong with this, unless you actually want to learn how to innovate: in which case we have to dig deeper and find out the truth. That was the primary goal of my book.

When you use the word "Innovation," what do you mean?

It's funny, I spent a great deal of time looking at different definitions of the word, but in the end decided not to bother with a long-winded exploration of what the word means.

In my book, I'm deliberately sloppy with the definition. Invention, discovery, innovation, creative thinking, and progress are all in the same ballpark and that's the field of myths the book explores.

In your research on Innovation, you debunked the myth that the best ideas win if the design is better than its competitors. Can you give an example of the best idea failing to win?

I think it's pretty rare that "the best" idea among experts in any field becomes the dominant, mass popular leader. HTML is not the "best" programming language. Certainly few computer scientists believe Microsoft Windows is the best operating system, and very few doctors believe Airborne is the best cold remedy. In my research, I've explored all the factors that contribute to innovation adoption, and surprisingly only a few of them have to do with the abstract quality of the idea behind the innovation itself."    (Continued via UIE)    [Usability Resources]

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