I often have people ask me how to build an innovative culture. The simple answer that is hard to execute is this: you build an innovative culture by innovating.
Executing ideas is a critical part of innovation. If you think that innovation is only about having ideas, you won’t actually make anything. As fake Mark Zuckerburg says to the fake Winklevii in The Social Network: “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.” In other words, if they had done anything other than talk, they would have had an actual thing.
We have to actually make things happen to innovate.
I ran across two excellent blog posts today that reinforce this point (read them both – they’re excellent). The first is from the 37Signals blog, and it includes this quote from Jason Fried:
The things you do more often are the things you’re going to get good at. So if you get really good at spending money, you’re going to be really good at spending money. If you have to work on making money from day one, you’re going to get really damn good at making money. And that’s what you need to be as an entrepreneur…
The second post is from John Winsor (via Diego Rodriguez). His title pretty much sums things up – It’s Not About What You Say You Do, It’s About What You Do.
The analogy that he uses is learning to surf. Winsor says:
Yet, I’ve discovered there are very few people who actually surf. Why is that? There is one simple answer: surfing is hard. I have a personal theory about surfing. It takes riding a thousand waves to become a surfer. It doesn’t matter if you catch 20 waves a day for 50 days or one wave a day for a thousand days; you just can’t get around the experience of learning the hard way.
If you want to be an innovator how will you ride a thousand waves? Start innovating. Start doing and making.
So that’s it. The way to be an innovator is to innovate. The way to build an innovation culture is to innovate. That is both simple and hard. It’s hard because there are many obstacle to innovation. It’s simple because the more you innovate, the better you’ll get at innovation.
(photo from flickr/mikebaird under a Creative Commons License)