July 08, 2008
Innovation Begins with Fascination

fascination.jpg

I own a huge library of books on innovation. Mostly hardcover. The $27.95 variety with big indexes and forwards by people who make more money than I do.

Some of these books are actually good. Most of them bore me. (I must confess I have a secret desire, whenever I enter a bookstore, to put glue between pages 187 & 188 in all of the new releases just to see if the publishers get any complaints).

Most of the books attempt to describe the origins of innovation. You know, stuff like "the innate human impulse to find a better way" and "the imperative to find a competitive edge" and "the endless search to fulfill an unmet need." That sort of thing.

Corporate-speak, in other words.

In my experience, the origin of innovation is fascination -- the state of being intensely interested in something. Enchanted. Captivated. Spellbound. Absorbed.

What kids are good at.

Kids and those mavericks at work who make everyone nervous and running for their spreadsheets at the drop of a hat.

A person who is fascinated does not need to be motivated... or managed... or "incentivized." All that person needs is time, some resources, meaningful collaboration, and periodic reality checks from someone who understands what fascination is all about.

That's why Google gives its workforce 20% of their time to explore projects on their own. That's why 3M and W.L. Gore do something similar. They know that the root of innovation is fascination.

If you, or the people who report to you, are not currently in a state of fascination about work it's time to turn things around. That is, IF you want to spark some innovation.

How do you do this?

For starters, here's one simple way, excerpted from Awake at the Wheel, just to get things rolling.


THE SEED OF FASCINATION

1. On a piece of paper, create three parallel headlines -- "What Fascinates Me," "People I Admire," and "What I Would Do If I Had More Time or Knew I Couldn't Fail."

2. Jot down at least TEN responses beneath each headline.

3. Look for intriguing, new connections between your responses. Any insights? New possibilities? Ahas?

4. Now, think about ways you might incorporate these new insights or possibilities into your work life (while staying open to the fact that your company is capable of changing and growing).

5. Jot down your new ideas.

6. Circle your three favorite ideas and brainstorm them with a friend. Then pitch anyone who's influence can help you launch your ideas for how to bring more fascinating projects into your work life.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at July 8, 2008 11:24 PM

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