The fog surrounding innovation

I’ve been in a little bit of an innovation fog recently, I’m possibly losing orientation. I hear so much sound around me but it is becoming disorientating, I’m not sure where to tread.  Am I heading in the right direction, or going off on a tangent, away from much that is “the place to be”.

The more I read, the less I understand, yet the more I read, the greater my awareness of innovation and all the mountains we have still to climb. It is a never-ending journey it seems, yet I’ve found I have pressed the pause button. I need some time to allow the fog to lift but can I afford too?

There is this increasing intensity of innovation wisdom being produced daily, you can just get utterly and totally all-absorbed in all the nuances, all that advice. So much that is written is offering the ways forward on past approaches, highlighting where we are going wrong on past experiences, and in some cases providing the “cure all” simply all within one article based on their narrow view of the solution, set in a specific context. It can bring you to a stand-still but much more than this, it can all be highly dangerous.

Funnily enough, if you do stop and listen, even when there is so much swirling on around you, you begin to hear different voices; you begin to discern new sounds. Often those people who are alert to these faint sounds  like to group these under “weak signals” or “future plausible directions”.

“Futures studies is the study of postulating possible, probable, and preferable futures and the worldviews and myths that underlie them. What is likely to continue and what could plausibly change.”  (Wikipedia )

A little postulation for possible and probable futures has a long way to go in innovation.

I sort of like this. The key word for me is “postulate” suggesting (for each of us) that the assumptions – the countless words, the proffered advice –  all has grains of truth, and form a small part of the argument or theory of innovation – trying to make the business case for change. Are they or holding us in the past?

It is really getting harder to sift through all this advice, this deluge offered in the name of innovation to pick what is sound and valid and applicable to our needs expected from innovation? Much within these messages is actually holding us back. In truth, much of it should be totally ignored. It is missing the future, it is far to rooted in the past.

I often do wonder why innovation is so elusive and seemingly hard.  Should we simply agree to manage innovation as individuals differently, or should management recognize finally that innovation is actually different and turn their serious attention to it? We do need to allow those in the organization to think, to have time to personally think, to be creative, and to become fully aware of each of our own powerful contributions to all our future well-being through innovating.

The need for emerging fusion needs amplifying.

Innovation relies on engagement and exchange, on relying on people wanting to be involved. We need to cut through the chatter, blow away the fog, the swirling advice and go back to basics, otherwise we continue to confuse. We are actually discouraging serious investment in all that makes up innovation as it seems, on the surface and in all the countless, often highly conflicting opinions, as just simply impossible to get our ‘heads around’ yet we do need a seismic shift in our thinking.

Where we do need to take innovation is in combining all of its fusion points that we have available to us. Those that can combine aspects of art, design, engineering, technology, social awareness and in all the different disciplines of science by coming together and coalescing in unique ways is where we will see the great innovations of the future, those that will tackle this set of economic, social and political problems pressing in on us. It is at the intersections spoken about in a terrific book that still occupies much of my thinking “The Medici Effect” by Frans Johansson that will give us in his words: “the breeding grounds of breakthrough ideas.”

What is very clear to me is the management of innovation needs to change to take on our growing set of global and local challenges in completely different ways. We do seem to need a new generation of top managers to blow away the cobwebs of 20th century management thinking.

The weak signals I seem to be hearing

I hear new sounds that give me hope on innovation emerging out of its “dark age” of our crude attempts to fit innovation into existing structures that are no more “fit for purpose”. We need some more enlightenment through the evolution of innovation’s management and all it means.

Possibly I do hear the growing sounds of a new age of enlightenment concerning innovation that is presently confusing and confounding me. It is being mixed in with much that is old, of past value. Perhaps we all need to become more discerning. But we do need to push the advancing of numerous new theories, experiment more to learn new ways because the way innovation is presently structured in organizations is simply not working, as well as it can do.

Maybe if we can gain a new momentum for the management of innovation so we can lift the fog, mine, and I bet yours, if you pause long enough. Until then I think this fog will drift in and out until there is enough behind the reforming wind to allow us to ‘advance’ again. It would help me gain more of the “true north” I need again in my innovation orientation.

So I have to cut out all the extraneous noise and begin to strive even more for the way out of this current fog. Where is that compass of mine? It points towards the future of innovation, which is so very different from the past, where so many seem to be trapped and suggesting our answers still lie. How wrong they are, I must follow those ‘weak signals’ to lead me out of this current fog, ignoring much that is stuck in the past.

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