December 05, 2007
Fearless Innovation

I ask myself the question, "Am I innovative?" My answer is, no surprise, "Of course I am!"

Being a pain in my own butt, I then press on and ask, "But are you innovative like in being creative, when no one asks you, or are you innovative like in response to something?"

I'm really beginning to annoy myself.

"Well, I have innovative ideas when no one's around, when no one's looking!" I answered somewhat whiningly.

"Sure you do. Of course you do. No doubt about that. Next question. Once you have these original, creative, innovative thoughts and ideas when no one's around, when no one's looking, what do you do with them?"

Sheeesh! Busted once again.

The answer is, I usually keep them to myself.

We all remember being in third or fourth grade and having the teacher ask the class a question and sort of raising our hand at half mast because we were pretty sure we had the answer but Ann Smith and/or Gregg Rimsky were just about bursting out of their seats, raising both hands at once, grunting, moaning, waving wildly for teacher's attention. Remember? And when teacher called on Ann or Gregg, they gave the correct answer and it was exactly what you were going to say.

Our first Homer Simpson D'OH! moment.

Let's fast forward twenty, thirty, forty or fifty years. Probably not much has changed in this regard. And many times we still have the right answer. What I'm referring to here is human behavior, very cherishable human behavior. We want to make that contribution of the right answer. We really, really do. But we are afraid.

I'm not going to go through the pantheon of fears we all have when we are in community. I don't have to. We all know them. What I want to draw attention to is the richness of innovation that resides in all of us, and how we can and will all benefit from its expression if we create a safe and fearless environment in which it can be expressed.

By a safe and fearless environment I'm not referring to brainstorming sessions or other organized activities geared to "getting the juices flowing." While these have their place and are very valuable, what I refer to here is the creation of a culture wherein spontaneous innovation, three o'clock in the morning innovation, is encouraged, nurtured, fed and given space and place for expression.

This is a two step process that takes place almost simultaneously within the individual and the community. It starts with the individual who must be willing and courageous enough to put some starch in their arm and get it up there for everyone to see. Creating the environment and providing the tools for fearless expression comes next. We all need a safe place. This is not a difficult or complicated thing to do, but it requires courage, vision, compassion and leadership.

Once individuals become willing to take a chance and the safe environment is in place, the wellspring, the cornucopia of intelligence and innovation that resides in all of us will begin to flow forth and the benefits, expressed in the form of less employee turnover, improved morale, improved revenues and a smarter, more pertinent, more competitive product line, will be expressed.

It won't take long, so let's get started.

Posted by at December 5, 2007 04:08 PM


Hey, Farrell, really enjoying the ironic humor in your posts.

Beyond that, I think this line:

>> "What I want to draw attention to is the richness of innovation that resides in all of us..."

...really expresses the essence of what we're saying here, of *where to look* for breakthrough thinking, and epitomizes what Mitch meant by naming this blog, "The Heart of Innovation."

Posted by: Bill Ross [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 18, 2007 02:59 PM

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