July 02, 2010
Fascination is the DNA of Innovation


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).

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." 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 naturally 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 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 way, excerpted from Awake at the Wheel.


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

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

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

4. Jot down your new ideas.

5. Circle your favorite idea and brainstorm it 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 2, 2010 11:24 PM


Thanks for continually bringing such great information, direction and inspiration to the table. The insight that hit me after I was done with my list was that the types of things that fascinate me pretty much in alignment with the kind of people who I admire. There is this feeling of: 1. Focus on people. 2. Focus on connecting with people who are where I aspire to be and they will pull me towards a bigger me.

Your Ambassador,
Mike Bruny

Posted by: Mike Ambassador-Bruny [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 2, 2010 12:30 AM

Mike: Glad the Fascination exercise worked for you. Love your hip hop affirmation thang. I also used to live in Brooklyn (Park Slope). And I also love music. You may want to check out Face the Music -- a transformational blues intervention I founded back in 1999. www.facethemusicblues.com

Twin brothers from a different mother...

Posted by: Mitch Ditkoff [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 2, 2010 01:31 AM

Great article! 'Absorbed' would defintely describe my sister and me as we drafted our first book, now under review for publication submission. She and I 'seed' each other. One of us would blurt out a thought and the other often developed it. Our nascent site www.squirrelb8.com has preview portions of the book available. Wish us luck!
Renee Hughes

Posted by: ReneeAHughes [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 7, 2010 02:35 PM

Renee (and sister)
Good luck!

Posted by: Mitch Ditkoff [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 8, 2010 01:25 AM

I forwarded this article to one of my clients and numerous colleagues who are going to do the Seeds of Fascination exercise as will I.Thanks for sharing it. I have added it to my toolbox with proper credit to you Mitch.

Also this posting had me thinking and I then posted some of those thoughts to my blog and included this original posting. Thanks again. Leanne Hoagland-Smith

P.S. Here is the link - http://bit.ly/98jIBB

Posted by: Coach [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 8, 2010 09:30 AM

Leanne: Glad you liked the fascination posting and exercise. Thanks for forwarding it to your clients and colleagues. I'm actually thinking of expanding this article into a book, given the huge response (mostly on Twitter) I've received from the posting. You might be interested in my book, from whence it came: Awake at the Wheel: Getting Your ideas Rolling (in an uphill world). It has 35 different techniques, like the fascination one, on getting "out of the cave." Continued good luck to you!

Posted by: Mitch Ditkoff [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 8, 2010 09:39 AM

Have you read Sally Hogshead's new book FASCINATE? She delves into the topic of fascination quite deeply, more from a marketing perspective. Nonetheless, it's an interesting perspective if we're looking at getting other people fascinated in our ideas.

Posted by: Mark Dykeman [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 9, 2010 01:43 PM

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