“Innovation is the change that unlocks new value” – Jamie Notter (Leadership speaker and Author)

Innovation can be defined as something that is new and brings about a change in the way things work in the day. The essence of the word is in its simplicity. At times organizations try too hard by hiring management gurus and innovation consulting firms to introduce processes to foster innovation which lead to confusion and costs without visible impact.

My point of view is that an individual’s personality traits to a large extent governs the way in which they innovate. There are 2 simple approaches to innovation – The first one is by finding inspiration through observation. If I have to give an example, then Newton establishing the laws of gravity was an inspired innovation. He observed an apple falling from a tree which compelled him to think about the cause and subsequently work out the physics around it. This approach comes naturally to some people. This skill however, can’t be developed overnight. To achieve this, people need to develop lateral thinking which allows thoughts to cut across topics and domains. People who do this on a frequent basis have a habit of spending time on the “whats and whys” of the world which enables to work out parallels between disconnected objects and events. Most of the musicians and artists fall in this category. They look for inspiration to create something new and this inspiration can come from anything. It could be from nature, music, books… anything!

Another approach to innovation is through experimentation. This approach unlike the other one, needs a lot more effort and time. Edison inventing the light bulb is a great example of an innovation which was achieved through experimentation. The filament was not built overnight. It was the result of years of relentless experimentation through which Edison had to undergo multiple failures. There were many versions of the filament built during the process which didn’t work at all, but Edison was known to be a person who would keep trying new things and not give up. He filed multiple patents over the years and eventually gave us the filament which made the modern day light bulb possible.

Individuals with persistence and a never-say-die attitude are most likely to deliver innovations using experimentation. They have the heart to discard failures honestly and brutally. Physicists, Engineers and individuals working in the domain of science are usually trained to work this way.

One thing that is very clear is that innovation does not come easy. Either you need years of learning and grooming or you need a very high level of persistence and commitment. How do you innovate? I am interested in knowing your comments about how you approach this topic and what works best for you.

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