Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How to Innovate Right Now

Practical tips for stimulating innovation ...

"The biggest secret of innovation is that anyone can do it. The reason is simple: It's just not that hard. Look up the word "innovate" in any dictionary and see what it actually means, instead of what you think it means. You'll find something like this: To innovate is "to introduce something new." That's it. It doesn't say you need to be a creative genius, a workaholic, or even have on clean underwear. It's just three little words: introduce something new. And I promise that by the end of this article, you'll have all the secrets needed to do it yourself.

The key word in the definition is "new." The common trap about newness is the assumption that new means something the universe has never seen before. This turns out to be the third most ridiculous assumption in the history of mankind (you'll have to figure out the other two for yourself). Here's proof: Name any great innovator, and I guarantee they borrowed and reused ideas from the past to make whatever it is they are famous for.
Borrowing Ideas From the Past

The Wright brothers, the inventors of powered flight in the United States, spent hours watching birds. As boring as it seems, we have bird-watching to thank for the supersonic jet planes we have today.

Picasso's development of cubism, one of the great artistic movements of the last two centuries, was heavily influenced by his exposure to African painting styles, as well as the work of an older French painter, Cezanne.

And Thomas Edison did not create the concept of powered light: You'd have to talk to the thousands of people who died before Edison was born who turned wood, wax, oil, and other fuels into controllable and portable light sources (not to mention Joseph Swan, who patented the electric light before Edison).

Even in today's high-technology world you can find easy connections between what we call "new" and ideas from the past. The World Wide Web and the Internet get their names from things thousands of years old. The first webs were made by spiders, and the first nets were used to catch fish by indigenous people around the world, thousands of years before the first computer. Google, the wonderful search tool, is often called a search engine, in reference to concepts of physical mechanics, not digital bits.

All these examples prove that the trick to innovation is to widen your perspective on what qualifies as new. As long as your idea, or use of an existing idea, is new to the person you are creating it for, or applies an existing concept in a new way, you qualify as an innovator from their point of view, and that's all that matters.

Even with these improved definitions, it takes more to make innovation happen. The tool kit of every innovator typically includes three things: questions, experiments, and self-reliance."    (Continued via UIE, Scott Berkun)    [Usability Resources]

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