Innovation canâ€™t happen without accepting the risk that it might fail. ~Neal Stephenson
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Risk!
Neal talks about the virtues of not knowing what has succeeded or failed before:
Most people who work in corporations or academia have witnessed something like the following: A number of engineers are sitting together in a room, bouncing ideas off each other. Out of the discussion emerges a new concept that seems promising. Then some laptop-wielding person in the corner, having performed a quick Google search, announces that this â€śnewâ€ť idea is, in fact, an old oneâ€”or at least vaguely similarâ€”and has already been tried. Either it failed, or it succeeded. If it failed, then no manager who wants to keep his or her job will approve spending money trying to revive it. If it succeeded, then itâ€™s patented and entry to the market is presumed to be unattainable, since the first people who thought of it will have â€śfirst-mover advantageâ€ť and will have created â€śbarriers to entry.â€ť The number of seemingly promising ideas that have been crushed in this way must number in the millions.
What if that person in the corner hadnâ€™t been able to do a Google search? It might have required weeks of library research to uncover evidence that the idea wasnâ€™t entirely newâ€”and after a long and toilsome slog through many books, tracking down many references, some relevant, some not. When the precedent was finally unearthed, it might not have seemed like such a direct precedent after all. There might be reasons why it would be worth taking a second crack at the idea, perhaps hybridizing it with innovations from other fields. Hence the virtues of Galapagan isolation.
In other words, do not concern yourself with what others are doing or have done.
The key to innovation is to shut out the noise, and build something truly great.
And that means admitting the risk that it might FAIL.
From a recent post I did on 10 ways proven to make you more creative:
- Get on a plane.Â Travel, moving and exposure to other cultures improve creativity.
- Don't surround yourself with the colorÂ red, stick to blue.
- Get rejected.
- Buy a potted plant.
- Pretend you're solving problemsÂ for someone else. Or pretend you're aÂ child.
- Learn another language.
- Think about love, not sex.
- Hopeful employees are more creative, as are overconfident CEO's. But being creative won't get you the CEO job.
- Take a break and stop being so hard on yourself.
- Smile. OrÂ frown while happy. But either way, beÂ happy.Â
Can we find creativity without dishonesty or arrogance, please?
Creativity comes in many forms -- like it or not. ;)
So then we can, it's just rare. :)
Great article throughout, and the parallels to evolution are intriguing. Neil is a great writer -- I highly recommend Cryptonomicon for anyone who hasn't read it yet.
Thanks Mark -- I'm putting Cryptonomicon on my "to read" list.