Great ideas don’t grow on trees, unless…

January 26, 2019. by

 

Great ideas change established realities, systems of thinking, behaviours, habits, routines, markets and whole societies. When they happen, it is like an enlightening. Creative people know the feeling very well. Some new mental and imaginative space opens and something new and totally unexpected happens. There is no way back to the old world. Those ideas are called “big” or “great” for a reason. Through such inventions as the wheel, printing machine, steam engine, electric bulb, radio, to the Internet and digital technology, innovation was triggered and disrupted the status quo of the past. Today, organisations of all sizes crave for innovation and try to invest in creative thinking, imagination, and change with the hope to achieve new solutions pretty fast. They don’t want to stay behind their competitors and they want to maximise their own potential. Yet great ideas don’t grow on trees, apart from that one famous apple that fell on the head of Isaac Newton who in 1666 realised then that gravitation regards all objects in space. 

See more about Newton’s Apple Tree 

Big ideas need to be nourished, looked after, fed with support and they need time. It can happen that the eureka moment comes to someone suddenly and with no preparation or investment at all, like it did to Newton. But even an ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes, who apparently realised in a bath that the weight of his body was equal to the volume of the water displaced by his body and thus established the new law of physics was researching, learning and practising the science for many years before it had happened, so making such a new connection was more accessible to him and to Newton than to someone who was never exposed to scientific practice…and bathing. Even if the famous shout “Eureka, Eureka!” was true, it only shows that the moment of realisation follows some practice, thinking, experimenting and trying, that took time and investment, whether it was the bathtub, an apple orchard, or a scientific lab, but more importantly – time.

Read about the origins of the word ‘Eureka!’ 

In the same way, innovation needs attention and time. Whether through training sessions in creativity, design thinking or problem solving, or delegating teams of mavericks in an organisation, it is important to give time and space for questioning, what Professor Vijay Govindarajan from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, calls “dominant logic’ of a company. Professor Govindarajan, who is a creator of the theory of three boxes in business development, emphasises that only by looking into its past, present and future, the company can fully open to its unknown potential for innovation, which cannot be grasped until the dominant logic is disrupted (the new laws created by Archimedes and Newton, not to mention Albert Einstein and many others, first faced objections and doubts before they entered the dominant logic of physics).

Watch Professor Govindarajan discuss Dominant Logic 

It can happen that such a questioning can be too much for the whole company at the stage of experimenting, that is why Professor Govindarajan suggests that companies which are ready for innovation should form separate teams which would work on innovation together while connecting with the “mother company” via specially created routes of communication. Silicon Valley and its ‘babies’ is formed like that but most organisations are not. This process is not easy and requires some decision-making by the leaders and, eventually, introducing the changes, which would apply across the whole structure of the organisation. It is quite common today that organisations enable creative brainstorming or even invest in extra education for their maverick teams, but they do not implement the results of the disruption. This is a paradox which shows that it is easier to discuss and imagine innovation than introducing innovation in practice. Not many companies are ready to question their “dominant logic” and replace it with the new logic. After all, the dominant logic says” “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix” – which is the first hurdle to any change.

Until the all the areas of company’s life are somehow touched by disruptive thinking, all those great ideas which the mavericks come up with will be wasted and ticked in abstraction. Disruption, innovation, and change take time and require patience, time and space. Not everything needs to be disrupted for disruption’s sake and not everything needs to be changed. But if there is no approval for questioning and remodelling of the dominant logic, the organisation, society, community, or even a nation will be stuck in the perpetual state of complacency and stagnation.

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Creating a space for unfolding your own ways of imagining new realities is a start. Grab a new thread and observe where it will take you and you may be surprised by your own visions

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