The Innovator’s (state of) mind
‘True innovators’ operate in a special mode, always looking for opportunities to create value in novel ways.
‘Innovation’ is a trendy topic in our ‘connected world’ — everybody is talking about it: how to define it, how important it is, how it is changing the way we work, how to introduce the culture of innovation etc. Typically, the ‘innovation discussion’, approaches the topic from the perspective of the corporation, for instance, how to introduce the right processes and technology to enable innovation. But, how about defining innovation from an innovator’s point of view?
“True innovators are driven by the spirit, the energy and willingness to come up with high-impact ideas and concepts”
Have you ever tried to spot the natural innovators ‘out there’? Those with the spirit, the energy and willingness to come up with new ideas, concepts and potentially products? Those who can conceive great ideas ‘randomly’ — with or without a formal stimulation, in or out of specific context; those who are ready to experiment and accept failure as part of the process; those who get carried away in further developing their ideas, driven by passion and possibly against the odds?
The ‘True Innovator’
‘True innovators’ operate in a special mode, always looking for opportunities to create value in novel ways; to reuse existing knowledge, technologies and other ‘building blocks’ and create unexpected value at scale.
And this pursuit of novelty and value is happening continuously, as an independent thread, an OS-level background process. Companies, cannot just ask employees to enter this mode - this is a special innovation state of mind that can only be achieved ‘naturally’: companies need to empower those identified ‘true innovators’ to attract and inspire like-minded talent, drive the cultural change from within and empower the innovation spirit, by example.
‘True innovators’ experience special innovation moments: those nearly ‘spiritual’ experiences of conceiving (potentially) great ideas; the moments of excitement — when post-processing raw ideas to explore and validate high-impact opportunities; the moments of high-energy — when sharing, communicating and promoting ideas and concepts; the moments of completeness when realizing the resulting potential.
Peak (innovation) Experiences
Abraham Maslow is frequently referenced for his well-known work on the hierarchy of needs. I will reference his definition of the peak experiences — ‘envisioned moments of extraordinary experience’ during which “a person feels more whole, alive, self-sufficient and yet a part of the world, more aware of the truth, justice, harmony, goodness …”.
Maslow identified a few major characteristics of a peak experience including “the feeling of using all capacities and capabilities at their highest potential, or being ‘fully functioning’” and “a free mind that is flexible and open to creative thoughts and ideas” — what a great description of the mental state of a true innovator!
“the moment when you clearly see something ‘magical’ — a non-obvious and novel concept that simply makes perfect sense”
I would define an ‘innovation moment’ as a kind of a peak experience: it is the moment when you clearly see something ‘magical’ — a non-obvious and novel (to you) scenario that simply makes perfect sense — a scenario possibly coming out of random, ‘parallel’ and unmanaged stream of thoughts. It is this critical moment when you engage with your idea and become obsessed with it; when everything else can wait, even Maslow’s lower-level physiological needs.
“… the feeling of using all capacities and capabilities at their highest potential, or being ‘fully functioning’ … a free mind that is flexible and open to creative thoughts and ideas …”
I do believe that true innovation spirit is unmanageable, as it should be. And true innovation is driven by people: yes, processes, methodologies, techniques, and tools can significantly help in introducing innovation to a corporation; but what makes a real difference is the empowerment of those ‘natural’ innovators.
Companies need the right frameworks and processes to let ‘true innovators’ share the innovation spirit and help like-minded people develop their skills; to empower them in establishing the innovation culture and drive the transformation to an innovation-led enterprise.