Published - Sat, 30 Sep 2023
In the competitive world of business, sticking to conventional methods rarely leads to acquiring new clients, expanding market share, or keeping employees engaged. The business landscape constantly demands innovation, whether it pertains to our products, services, or the very way we conduct business.
While most business leaders acknowledge the necessity of innovation, establishing a work environment that fosters continuous innovation can prove to be a daunting task. Surprisingly, a 2018 study disclosed that 70% of employees encounter obstacles when attempting to pose questions at work, with only 24% expressing regular curiosity about their jobs. However, curiosity and questioning form the bedrock of innovation.
So, what causes this disconnect between the aspiration to innovate and the practical implementation of an innovative company culture? The answer lies in some fundamental misconceptions about innovation. Let's explore a few of these myths and understand why they can be detrimental to companies committed to fostering innovation.
The prevalent definition of innovation often revolves around the concept of producing something entirely new, closely associated with creativity. However, the genesis of every innovation story begins with a problem and the quest for a solution. True innovation isn't merely about creating something new for the sake of novelty; it must be firmly rooted in addressing a real business problem. Tamara Ghandour, President of LaunchStreet Consultancy and Udemy instructor, emphasizes, "Innovation involves altering your perspective on existing resources, people, opportunities, and challenges, and finding a new approach or a different angle. The result is a competitive advantage, which could manifest as an improved process, a new product, or any element that provides an edge."
Greg Satell, in his Harvard Business Review article, challenges the notion that there exists only one true path to innovation. He contends, "Every innovation strategy fails eventually because innovation fundamentally revolves around problem-solving, and there are as many approaches to innovation as there are types of problems to solve. There is no one-size-fits-all solution."
Satell proposes treating innovation as akin to other business disciplines, viewing it as a toolkit designed for specific objectives. Just as it wouldn't make sense to rely on a single marketing tactic or a solitary source of financing, companies should develop a diverse portfolio of innovation strategies tailored to distinct tasks.
Arguably the most harmful myth of all is the belief that innovation is an innate skill beyond the grasp of some individuals. This misconception can stifle personal growth and development. Tamara Ghandour, the Udemy instructor, refutes this myth, drawing on neuroscience and behavioral psychology to demonstrate that innovation is a holistic brain experience. She notes, "All of us possess the cognitive structures for innovation. Intelligence and innovation, in fact, inhabit separate structures in the brain. While intelligence resembles well-established highways or deep grooves, innovation consists of numerous interconnected side roads across the brain. This underscores the fact that innovation is within everyone's reach, and the skills required for it can be cultivated."
When we perceive innovation as a method of problem-solving and solution-finding, breaking it down into component skills becomes more feasible. These skills encompass talents such as curiosity, the ability to ask questions, design thinking, and seeking inspiration beyond one's industry.
Promoting innovation offers tangible benefits for businesses. The most innovative companies globally provided a 3% higher return to shareholders than their counterparts from 2005 to 2020. As discussed here, innovation should not be an enigmatic superpower reserved for a select few; it is accessible to all.
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