Innovation is Weird

Innovation is weird. It doesn’t follow any rulebook. There’s no step-by-step guide to creating a lightbulb or a smartphone. So how do you spark more of the weirdness that changes the world?

That question is like asking how you summon lightning.

You can’t.

The most innovative ideas seem to come out of thin air.

But you can set the stage for innovation. You can increase the odds of lightning strikes.

It starts by getting weirdos in the room. You need people with unusual backgrounds and personalities.

People who are willing to make fools of themselves, chasing odd ideas.

Conformity is the enemy of innovation.

So you have to foster an environment where it’s okay to be different. People are measured by their ideas’ originality, not arbitrary metrics like experience or credentials.

Next, you need patience. Lots and lots of patience.

Our brains are wired for instant gratification.

But innovations can take decades to play out.

Leaders must be willing to make bets that pay off long after they’re gone: no chasing quick wins and short-term results.

True innovation requires a tolerance for delayed returns—the courage to look past quarterly earnings and see the forest, not just the trees.

Great innovators are long-term optimists, even when short-term results are grim.

And you have to get comfortable with failure—lots of failures.

The most significant innovations follow dozens of flops, like Thomas Edison’s botched lightbulb attempts.

Each failure holds a lesson to inch closer to success.

The most innovative companies build up reservoirs of courage and patience to sustain this cycle.

They believe enough in fuzzy, far-off ideas to weather the inevitable storms of failed experiments and prototypes.

Failure is feedback. It’s data and insights to tweak and improve the next iteration.

The key is quickly filtering the valuable lessons to try again versus abandoning efforts altogether.

Not all failures are created equal.

Finally, innovation requires teamwork. Game-changing ideas are rarely eureka moments from lone geniuses.

They emerge from the messy clashes and combinations of different minds. As Steve Jobs put it: “Creativity is just connecting things.”

That’s why you need open communication across silos and hierarchies.

Collaboration between departments like marketing, engineering and design.

And leaders who break down barriers rather than reinforce them.

Innovation is weird. It thrives on differences coming together. Old-school companies built on command and control won’t cut it.

Hierarchy has its place, but excessive top-down power breeds conformity.

To innovate, you need a horizontal flow of ideas.

And you need leaders confident enough in their vision to loosen their grip.

To listen and synthesize and steer, not dictate.

Innovation is uncertain. It’s a puzzle with ever-changing pieces.

There will be blind alleys and dead ends. Wild ideas that go nowhere. But the companies that lean into the weirdness will own the future.

The ones afraid of the mess will cling to what worked yesterday.

And that may work for a while, but eventually, innovation will make yesterday’s success formulas obsolete.

Playing it safe is the most dangerous game of all.

So don’t shy away from the abnormal. Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable.

Innovation is weird, but Fortune favours the bold.

The weirder the idea, the more transformative its impact.

That’s been true throughout history and is more accurate than ever in this exponentially changing world.

How Can Leaders Create Frontiers Of Innovation?

Check out the panel discussion at TechHR 2023 where and learn how some leading organisations are fostering a culture of innovation, identifying and leveraging emerging technologies, and creating an environment that encourages experimentation, risk-taking, and creativity.

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