Innovation and creativity in business The creative path: Exploration and innovation.
Although innovation means the generation of new and productive ideas, the concept itself, of course, is far from new. Innovation has pushed human beings in evolution for at leasts 50,000 years, inspiring our ancestors to create tools, develop agriculture, and promote industry. Humans first used wedges as tools along the banks of the Nile thousands of years ago, and the wheel came soon after.
One might argue that these initial advances are as important to human innovation as are the creativity of Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon. We are here now because of the many generations that have built upon innovation, the great evolved creative mind of the human being.
Because creativity builds on the past, I explore here quotes from thinkers that tap into the essence of innovation, so that you can apply the ideas to your creative work. Don’t think for a second that innovation in industry popped up a year or two ago. Great thinkers have contemplated it’s various aspects over the years.
Creativity and innovation build upon our ancestors Steve Jobs: The innovative mind of Apple.
- Chief Seattle (1780 − 1866) lead northwest Native American tribes and is remembered for his enlightened ideas on environmental and social responsibility as keys to prosperity. He said, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” Almost every mythology believes that humans arose from the earth and are intimately connected with her. Evolutionary science begins with organisms in the water adapting to eventually live on the land. The empirical fact that we exist as humans is remarkable, and Chief Seattle correctly points to the interconnections of all things on earth. He looks through the eons of the past and future to see these intersections in the web of life. Innovation must bear in mind our responsibility to all things and people, bound together in a web. This changes how we think about the earth and its people.
- Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 −1859) was a French thinker who is known for his objective review of American civilization. He said, “I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all.” He foresaw the resistance to innovation which plagues us from time to time and inhibits progress. This resistance arises from fear and freezes innovation. New theories, inventions, and social advances should not be viewed as threatening, but as the essence of what drives our socioeconomic growth.
- Walt Whitman (1819 − 1892), as part of the transcendentalist movement in the United States, arose as the most innovative poet and thinker in America. He said, “You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, not look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books. You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, you shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself. “ In the 1830's, the transcendentalist movement started gaining ground, calling for Americans to do their own thing and quit relying on history and the English to determine thought and culture. Whitman suggests that we cannot rely too much on the past or innovation will be impeded, and all things will remain at second and third hand. Instead, which should take in the past and present, filtering them from ourselves so that we are open to the truly new and creative. We cannot be innovative without knowing where we have been, nor can we create by remaining stuck there.
- Kary Mullis (1944) is an American molecular biolgist who said, “We are the recipients of scientific method. We can each be a creative and active part of it if we so desire.” Science and technology rely upon the creative imagination of the artist, and art relies (at times) upon the rigor and skepticism of the scientist. The creative and the scientific are one in innovation and action. Einstein's elaborate and creative thought experiments, which lead him to the theory of relativity, are examples of the union of both.
- Alice Walker (1944) remains an excellent American literary artist, representing the creative side of innovation. She said “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.” The power of creativity feeds the innovative spirit, and Walker suggests that the easiest way to lose innovation is a simple cognitive turn. If we believe we lack the power to create, then our inherent human ability to produce novel inventions ceases.
- Steve Jobs (1955 - 2011) we think of more frequently as an innovative thinker, as the mastermind behind Apple. In his history, he brought Apple to the top twice, illustrating that the principles of innovation extend beyond the immediate circumstances of a company. Jobs said, "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition." Entrapment by the dogma of a culture, whether it is national or within a corporation, squelches your ability to be creative and innovative by following your inner voice. This is, perhaps, the most difficult item on the list because it requires at least two steps. You must first locate your inner voice, and then you must find the courage to launch strategies from your inner self. Sometimes this requires leaving a company so that your voice can be heard.
These thinkers about the American industry reveal truths that can be used to encourage innovation in our own day. Consider implementing the ideas of those who have gone before us by:
- Connecting with the web of life on earth, the people and land symbiotically benefiting one another.
- Resisting fear of the new and creative, which stifles innovation in industry.
- Recognizing that we must learn from the past, but not be bound to it, freeing ourselves to think in new and creative ways.
- Embracing the scientific method, skepticism, and reason as tools to combine with creativity in producing change.
- Believing that we have the creative power to change, grow, and prosper because doubting this shuts innovation down.
- Finding and acting upon our inner creative voice will facilitate true change in the world, but the voice of your culture must be tuned down or out to hear it.