Ask Better Questions, Do More Stuff, and Think About Maps?

Show Your Work

If we think about innovation as executing new ideas to create value (and we should!), then it becomes clear that innovation is a process.  There were some good posts about the different parts of that process this week – here are the ones that caught my attention.

First off – we need to ask better questions.  The Big Shift in Influence by John Hagel discusses how we can do this.  He says:

In an exponential world, answers have rapidly diminishing value. The greatest value in this kind of environment comes from questions, questions that no one had even thought to ask but that help to focus attention and effort on promising but previously ignored areas. Questions invite a different and more powerful form of participation. It’s no longer just about spreading the word and persuading others.  It’s about inviting others to explore a new domain and help to generate new ideas and insights.

One way to get better at innovation is to have better ideas.  One of the best ways to have better ideas is to ask better questions.  As Hagel points out, who we ask has a big influence on the ideas that we get back as well.

Finding a novel question can be one of the most innovative things that we can do.

Jane Porter’s post What Maps Can Teach You About How Your Mind Works is a great read too.  It tackles this question of creativity from a completely different angle.  Porter builds on two excellent books by Peter Turchi, that both address how maps act as a metaphor for writing, and thinking creatively.  He’s doing fascinating work, and Porter does a great job of summarising his thinking.

Of course, once we have our ideas, we have to execute them – an issue that Justine Musk addresses in Darling, Just Freaking Do It.  As I pointed out yesterday, the big creative gap is not between those doing lousy work and those doing great work.  The bigger gap is between those doing nothing and those doing something.

Instead of listening to the voice that says “that’s too risky,” Musk says “So listen to your curiosity instead. Your sense of play. Your longing for wonder.”

That’s a good way to get started.

That post of mine was triggered by Austin Kleon’s superb new book Show Your Work.  You should check it out.  Here are his 10 rules:

Show Your Work


Once you’ve started, then you need to be able to run experiments – this is a key innovation skill. That’s an issue addressed by Arash on the 7Geese site in How To Make Your Organization More Agile By Using The Lean Startup Methodology.  

I was talking with Ralph Ohr yesterday about what we see as big issues in innovation, and we agreed that this is still a huge one for larger firms.  The key idea in Arash’s post is to use the Build-Measure-Learn loop to improve your innovation skills.

Build Measure Learn


In probably my favourite post of the week, Nina Dejmanee wrote My Experimental Career on Whitney Johnson’s blog.  She tells a great story of how you can use this scientific approach to problem-solving to build your ideal job.

It’s a great example of Build-Measure-Learn in action – and it’s also a great example of taking control of your own career.

Finally, if you’re trying to keep up with my stuff, there were two things that didn’t show up here on the blog this week.  First, DK interviewed me for part of his podcast series on innovation.  You can listen to it, or just read the transcript here.  It’s a pretty good summary of what I’m thinking about these days.

The second piece came out in Momentum, the online update to the UQ Business School magazine.  The story is The Innovation Myth – by Pauline Rawsterne.

It summarises a paper that John and I had published called Ideas Are Not Innovations.  It’s an argument for thinking about innovation as a process, which brings us back full circle to the start of this post!

There are some good reads here, and, more importantly, some great prompts to action.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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