Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for the ‘The Innovation Equation’ Category

Success is Born in Innovative Cultures That Thrive on Good (and Bad!) Ideas

Posted by Plish on February 26, 2010


“New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can’t be done. 2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing. 3) I knew it was a good idea all along!” – Arthur C. Clarke

Over the course of the last week I’ve been coming across multiple articles on the value of ideas.

There was this article that basically says ideas are random useless things with little value unless you commercialize them and then gives guidelines  for implementing ideas.

Then there was this great article from a wonderful new innovation community through Maddock Douglas  saying that good ideas are born from empathy.

Then there was this article that is not really about how to use ideas, but is about the development history of a system for washing clothes without using detergent.  In the middle of the article there is the following quote (Note my italicized section):

The idea for EcoSafe grew out of conversation the three inventors had four years ago after watching a news report on a detergent-less washing system that turned out to be a flop. “We knew it was a scam, but we were amused by the whole idea,” says Briggs. “We were laughing about it, but I said to Eddie, ‘Is it possible to do laundry without using detergent?'”

So, where do I stand with regards to ideas?

The first two articles talk about commercializing ideas, using ideas to make money.

The third highlights a totally different aspect – an idea that was a flop led to success.

Ideas are not just about commercialization; they’re about inspiration, about seeding the mind. They’re the uniquely human fruit that begins to sprout the moment they’re free of our bodies.  In this context, even a bad idea might turn out to be good…and a good idea might scare the pants off those in upper management.

 “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” – Howard Aiken

Good ideas should be dangerous!  For that matter, all ideas -even the bad ones- will be dangerous if people (and the culture) have a basic orientation towards innovation.

“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” – Oscar Wilde

So next time you’re trying to see if an idea will see the light of day and running it through a gamut of gates, try allowing yourself to be judged by the idea.  Ask yourself, “What does this idea say about our company, our division, our people, about myself?”  If it doesn’t inspire, if it doesn’t cause you to be knocked off guard, it may be less of an idea and more a harmless reflection of what you, and the market, already know.

Posted in Best Practices, Creative Environments, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, problem solving, The Human Person, The Innovation Equation, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Innovation With L.O.V.E.

Posted by Plish on July 17, 2009



I was reading this  blog that raised the question of, “Is Innovation Fair?”

It is a good question, but misses the point. 

Forgive the cliche, but there’s very little in life that is objectively fair.   When dealing with people, even equitable solutions will be seen by others as unfair – perception will be people’s reality.

So the question really should be, how do humans, as naturally creative beings, innovate so as to provide maximum benefit for the most people while minimizing collateral damage to others, societies, cultures, and the world?

We need to innovate with:


L-Life: Innovations should strive to improve quality of life for many not just the few.  True quality that enables people to be healthy, happy, and able to become all they can.  Innovations should never be done at the expense of others.

O-Observe:  Innovations that are the most accepted are those that resonate  with people and their cultures.  The best innovations occur when people observe and appreciate life in all its dimensions: physical, psychological, spiritual, social, economical, etc.

V-Vow:  Merriam-Webster defines it as: A solemn promise or assertion ; specifically : one by which a person is bound to an act, service, or condition.  People need commitment from others-real commitment that allows them to plan and count on other people.  We need to be as strongly committed to others as we are to ourselves and our own interests. We need to promise it.

E-Elegance: Innovations need to be simple, beautiful, dignified-Elegant.

For an example of an innovation done with L.O.V.E. check out this amazing story.


Posted in Authenticity, Case Studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Human Rights, innovation, invention, love, Sustainable Technology, The Human Person, The Innovation Equation | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

If a Giant Company Starts Twittering is it a Sign of Innovative Behavior?

Posted by Plish on May 21, 2009


I came across this article that asks the question, “Is Chevron, Shell’s Twittering an Innovation Indicator?”

The article discusses the variations in the two giants’ approaches and concludes that in spite of the fact that Shell uses Twitter more passively than Chevron, 


Twittering = Innovation!



Using Twitter as a channel for disseminating press releases, countering negative PR, and providing hurricane updates, is less a sign of innovative behavior and more a sign of shrewd business.

For the sake of argument, let’s use my favorite definition of Innovation.

Innovation = Creativity x Risk Taking

Applying that definition to this situation, let’s look at what these companies are doing in the following table:


You tell me, if a big company starts twittering, is it being innovative?

or smart?

Posted in creativity, innovation, Innovation Tools, The Innovation Equation, Twitter | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The Mathematics of Innovation

Posted by Plish on December 18, 2008

I’ve been reading and re-reading The Innovation Equation . It is an excellent book and I highly recommend it.

One of the things I love about this book is that they define Innovation with an equation: Innovation= Creativity x Risk Taking.

I think there is merit to this formula as I also believe, with the authors, that true innovation is possible for anyone.

Being the person I am, I decided to dig deeper into this formula and try stretching the mathematics to see what can be learned from its manipulation. (If you’re math averse, please skip to the bottom for the DISCUSSION)

Innovation doesn’t occur out of the context of time, so I figured, why not differentiate the formula with respect to time and see what impact that has and what it can perhaps teach us about innovation. The formulas are below:


By differentiating we can determine how Innovation changes with respect to time as Creativity and Risk Taking change with respect to time. I summarized the results using various functions in the table below. The lines represent the rough shapes of the curves of what the variable is doing over time. So a straight line means the variable is constant over time. A slant means a linear increase. A curve means the form of y= ax^2 + bx +c (but it could be a higher order as well but thiswould impact the results)


So what does this all mean?


A- When Creativity and Risk Taking are constant in a company, Innovation is constant. This means there is no Innovation Velocity and no Innovation Acceleration

B- When Creativity is constant and Risk Taking increases over time, Innovation increases because of Risk Taking. This means Innovation over time changes at a constant rate – the Innovation Velocity changes. There is still no Acceleration.

C- When Risk Taking is constant and Creativity increases over time, Innovation increases because of increases in Creativity. This means Innovation over time changes at a constant rate – the Innovation Velocity increases. There is still no Acceleration.

D- When Creativity over time is increasing in a non-linear second order fashion, and Risk Taking is constant over time, Innovation increases, Innovation Velocity increase linearly and Innovation Acceleration stays constant. But there is Acceleration!

E-When Risk Taking over time is increasing in a non-linear second order fashion, and Creativity is constant over time, Innovation increases, Innovation Velocity increase linearly and Innovation Acceleration stays constant. But there is Acceleration!

F-When Risk Taking and Creativity both are increasing linearly, Innovation increases, Innovation Velocity increases and Innovation Acceleration stays constant. But there is Acceleration!

DISCUSSION: In those cases where there is constant Creative output and constant Risk governing strategies, Innovation occurs but isn’t accelerated. In fact, it’s not moving, dynamic Innovation. It’s Innovation by definition-that’s all.

Dynamic Innovation (Innovation Velocity) is constant or increases only when Risk Taking gets riskier and/or Creativity increases. There needs to be a constant effort to either get riskier or be more creative to get Innovation moving. The problem is that according to the research of Dr. Byrd, as people get more encultured by the corporation, there is a tendency for creativity to decline (p.127) – they become prisoners of their culture. Innovation will suffer as a result.

Is it possible to Accelerate Innovation? Yes, but it’s not easy. You either need Hyper-Creativity, (second-order or higher Creativity), Super High Risk Tolerance (also of the second-order or higher), or everyone firing on all cylinders (which is probably the likelier path). Even when this occurs, though, Innovation Acceleration is constant.

So what’s the take away?

Remember, Risk Taking in most corporations rarely gets more aggressive with time and success. If anything, it grows more cautious. There may be times when this or that project may be more risky, but somewhere there are usually safety nets. If a project is too risky it gets killed.

The implications of killing projects and the signals sent by mitigating risk can directly impact creativity in a negative way and based upon the results above, we don’t want that! After all, if Risk Taking is constant or declining, Creativity is all that’s left to keep Innovation moving!

There are two solutions.

1. Individuals start exercising more risk and go out on limbs to keep projects going. If they succeed, great. If they fail, unless the company knows what it means to be innovative (and too many companies aren’t sure), the person pays the consequences and again, Creativity could take a hit on the Corporate level. Death Spiral…

2. Start treating each individual as a unique source of brilliance, training and enabling people to be more fully alive, fully authentic humans who utilize their creativity freely. (The culture that does this is itself being creative–a two-fer!)

When confronted with the choices, can we afford not to start investing in the creativity of people?

Posted in cognitive studies, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Research, The Human Person, The Innovation Equation, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: