Innovation Isn’t an Idea Problem, via Harvard Business Review

David Burkus is a triple-threat: author of The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas, founder of LDRLB and Professor.

I started following his work (and you should too!) in early 2012 and was thrilled to write this guest post for his popular site, LDLRB about two simple words than can kill innovation.

David’s recent article on HBR: Innovation isn’t an Idea Problem speaks to some of the challenges I’ve witnessed in many organizations, big and small. He argues a lack of innovation doesn’t stem from a lack of ideas, but rather an inability to notice them. I may even go so far as to say there’s often a lack of support or encouragement for sharing the “innovative idea”.

In the face of uncertainty, when we should be more nimble, adaptable and open to new ideas, we become the opposite.

Too many blinders, road-blocks, or red-tape disguised as “not the right, perfect solution”.

Burkus writes,

“[there is] a bias against new and creative ideas when we’re faced with even small amounts of uncertainty…

…If such a negative bias against creativity is present in times of uncertainty, it might explain why so many notable innovations were initially rejected. The implications for today are particularly relevant, as few executives would claim that they’re not working in an uncertain industry. The same uncertainty that triggers the need for companies to innovate may also be triggering executives to be rejecting the discoveries that could help them gain a competitive advantage. The ideas that could keep company alive are being killed too quickly.”

Does your culture recognize and support the “new idea”? Are you waiting to find innovation in a magical, miracle solution that instead might be right in front of your nose?

If you work from an assumption that everyone you meet is smart, capable, innovative, and creative and full of great ideas, and give them the full, “yes, and” treatment, you find the gifts in what you already have…. just like the Improviser on an empty stage.

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