Innovation through creativity

Jul 24 2009 by Edward de Bono Print This Article

There is a lot of lip-service paid to 'innovation'. But it is always easier to talk about such things than to do anything solid about them.

All businesses want to be seen as 'innovative' because the opposite is 'stagnant' or, at least, 'complacent'. There is always a need to progress and change, either because of new technology and possibilities or because of changes in the world outside.

So 'innovation' is often used as a term to mean progression and adapting to changed conditions.

A readiness to do something new is required for innovation. But anything new is viewed as a risk. Anything new is viewed as a distraction from the normal routine. Resources need to be committed to anything new.

There are lots of organisations who do not like to try new things, for obvious reasons. Managers reach senior positions by being good at continuity and problem-solving. You do what you are meant to do and solve problems that interfere with that doing. The readiness to try new things is hardly ever a factor in an executive's success and promotion.

Fear of failure also plays a part. Something new that does not work out is seen as a failure or an error. Language does not have a word that means a 'fully justified venture which, for reasons beyond your control, did not work'. So something that does not work out is labelled a failure. It makes sense for executives to avoid 'failures'.

Innovation can happen if there is a readiness to try new things and if a habit of exploring new possibilities is developed. Creating a climate of acceptance for every new possibility is very difficult. Perhaps there is a need for a specific 'Innovation Officer' whose business it is to develop the innovation readiness.

Clearly there is a need for someone to be sensitive to what is happening elsewhere in the same field and to what is happening in the world around. An 'opportunity scan' is needed.

Many businesses work on the basis of 'osmosis'. If a new idea has been around for a long time and has been taken up by other businesses, then it becomes natural (and low risk) to adopt that innovation.

There are many myths about creativity. There is the belief that creativity is a mysterious talent that some people have and others can only envy. Anyone can learn and practise the thinking skill of creativity. Some people might be better than others, as with any skill - such as driving, cooking, tennis or soccer.

Innovation is the introduction of something new for an organisation. You might do this by copying someone else, by systematic logical design or through direct and deliberate creativity. However, there must be a readiness to explore and implement new ideas. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, even when much lip-service is paid to innovation.

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About The Author

Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono

Edward de Bono (1933-2021) was a leading authority in the field of creative thinking. Over 35 years after the publication of his first book, "The Mechanism of Mind", the basic principles he outlined are now mainstream thinking in the mathematics of self-organising systems and in the design of neuro-computers. His many subsequent books have been translated into 26 languages.