If You Want to Be Innovative, Innovate

act not think

Too many people want to make their organisations more innovative without going through the pain of actually changing anything.

This does not work.

In an interview on Tim Ferriss’ podcast, Jocko Willink says:

If you want to tougher mentally, it is simple: be tougher. Don’t meditate on it.

It’s the same with innovation. If you want to be innovative, it is simple: innovate.

Here are some things that don’t work:

  • Buying the magic innovation software.
  • Bringing someone (like me) in to give an “inspirational talk” on innovation (which is why I don’t do these anymore). A one-day workshop doesn’t work either.
  • Buying a smaller, innovative company to kick-start internal innovation.
  • Building a corporate accelerator that brings in startups to do innovative stuff that’s related to your core business.
  • Outsourcing new product development, customer development, or any of the work that connects what you want to sell to the problem that people need solved.

Ultimately, all of these end up being innovation theatre.

Here is one thing that does work:

  • Try out lots of new ideas to see which ones create value, then scale those.

The problem is that to do this, you have to change the way you act. Which, of course, you must, if you want to be innovative.

There’s no shortcut. That’s why so few organisations are genuinely innovative. To be innovative, you have to innovate.

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

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “If You Want to Be Innovative, Innovate

  1. I think your “things that don’t work” could be extended and extended- sadly.

    I still am in search of the magic innovation key that unlocks this.

    I keep coming back to Don Quixote- those that prefers the glory of fantasy over a real world as a real world is facing up to a reality that is uncomfortable

    • I wrote a different version of this post a year ago, with a much longer list. I’m starting to wonder if there are only ~10% of organisations that are realistically even close to ready to having this discussion, and that’s the bunch we need to focus on….

  2. Thank you. I have been trying to tell people in my field (foresight) that getting the highly paid speaker in to tell me what the future will be and/or the one day workshop will do little but give people a challenging experience. I resist requests for case studies for the same reason – I always say if you want to copy someone else’s future, use a case study. If you want to create your future, here are the tools you need, here’s how you use them, go to it. But people seem to want someone to give them the answer so they don’t have to think or do.

  3. I agree on trying lots of new ideas to create value. Moreover, it is good to equip those ideas with comprehensive model of strategic choice

    • That’s why I have many different versions of this type of posts here – I keep trying to find different ways to make the point, hoping that it will connect with a few more people each time!