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Feeding Innovation

Posted by : Lisa Clark

If all else fails in your innovation journey, remember that ignorance is bliss. A person who does not know much about a field can sometimes stumble upon an innovative approach that could be revolutionary.

It’s easy to think of innovators and executors as polar opposites with disparate skillsets that, while they may complement each other, rarely overlap. Yet, as an entrepreneur, possessing the qualities that exemplify both personality types is often the key to your success.

For people with execution dominant personalities, identifying and creating a solution for a large problem can appear daunting. Understanding some of the processes that innovation dominant personalities use can enhance your approach and overcome this potential obstacle.

One of the most notable formats for understanding the innovation process was presented by Graham Wallas in the The Art of Thought. He outlined 4 steps to the cognitive creative process:

Preparation


This is the information collection stage. Wallas suggests looking at a problem from your customer’s perspective, talking to users to gain insight, and writing down all the information you can. You want to passively observe while gathering as many details as possible. Why is your best question at this point.

Incubation


Now is the time to step away from the information you have collected. You want to leave the thought alone and come back to it spontaneously, with the hope that this will elicit new ideas. Wallas even suggested adding distractions throughout your day as a way to force your mind onto something else.

Illumination


This is the ah-ha moment, when you see how the puzzle pieces fit together. We often refer to this as the Eureka effect, after the Greek philosopher Archimedes, who found an answer to a problem he’d been struggling with while relaxing in a public bath. And although we don’t suggest running through the streets naked like he did, this moment of illumination can often be quite sudden, even though it’s actually based on all of your dedicated preparation and rumination from the first two steps.

Verification


Here comes the validation of your idea, as you collect data and feedback from your initial customers to find out if your innovation has any value.

When formulating an idea, consider Einstein’s notion of combinatory play, which he considered essential to his process: if you are in a mental rut, move on to an unrelated activity to help spur thoughts where you had previously been blocked. Einstein’s preference was to practice his violin. You might elect to take your dog for a walk, organize your desk, or work out at the gym. I find some of my best ideas come when I’m in the shower.

If all else fails in your innovation journey, remember that ignorance is bliss. A person who does not know much about a field can sometimes stumble upon an innovative approach that could be revolutionary. Look at any product that’s popular today. Try to think about how to make it easier to use or interact with and you may have a potential start-up idea.

If you are a person who prefers execution, you may never reach the level of innovative thinking that you want. But by persisting in your pursuit of new concepts with diligence, you can train yourself to be more creative and you might just find your way to the valuable idea you’ve been searching for.

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