Where True Innovation is Born

Light bulbs don’t really illuminate above the head of geniuses when they have an epiphany. But where does innovation come from? How and where do the groundbreaking ideas in the arts, science and business come from? How can you have a fertile space for ideas to spawn?

Ideas are like recipes where groups of individuals bring different perspectives and flavors to help create something new and appetizing. This rarely occurs when everyone sits together in a brainstorming session. In fact, that may be the least productive place to innovate. I don’t know about you but I find it hard to schedule my innovation at exactly the time a meeting is set up at the office.

Where Ideas Have Sex: 
I watched a TED talk recently that got me thinking about this idea. The speech by Matt Ridley was called Where Ideas Have Sex. It is a brilliant and insightful way to express where humans mate their ideas and how these ideas reproduce. I'd urge you to watch this talk. 

Here are several places and ways where true and deeply disruptive ideas come from:

Quiet Thoughtful People: Great ideas are hatched by introverts who sit quietly and think thoroughly through an idea and slowly take it out for a walk. When their ideas come forward, they often have form and shape but need the input of others to develop them along. Often their innovation come when the office is closed and you are hiking in the woods or taking a walk in your neighborhood. 

Loud Thoughtful People: And innovation comes from extroverts who yammer on and on and try and talk an idea into being. They are so excited that their energy and enthusiasm are like fuel that pushes along the concepts. Don't be turned off by the undeveloped notion but there can be sparks of insights crying out for shape and form.

Strong willed individuals: Ideas come from people who have very strong personal views and thoughts about problems. Without a strong force that keeps taking their hunches out for a spin, innovation would be dead. We need individuals with vision but more importantly we need people who aren’t afraid to fail, learn and try again.

People who are a pain:  Innovation comes from people who are a pain in the ass. Persistent, hard-charging and sometimes arrogant who won’t let an idea go away. They keep pushing and pushing and pushing either within an organization or from outside- but can’t let go of the obsession of their creation.

Category Restructurers: New and truly disruptive ideas come from people who see a new way to define a category but eliminating things that others do or adding things that no one does. They get the importance of finding an unoccupied space and to develop a solution that solves a problem in a way that no one else has before them.

Other Worlds: Great ideas are birthed from seeing new ideas from outside of your sphere or industry. When you borrow an idea from biology or music or golf and bring it to your world, you start to see the problem with fresh eyes. 

Fertile, Fluid and Free-flowing Environments: Companies can build innovation and great ideas when they have an environment that allows a truly survival of the fittest for ideas not the survival of the ideas from the person with the loudest voice or the biggest stick. Ideas are agnostic. They can be sustained and grown from collaboration when each contributor is free to truly challenge and argue without concern for corporate hierarchy, pleasing the boss or expecting group consensus.

All shapes and sizes
Ideas that disrupt and innovation that changes an industry tend to happen over a time not in an instant. They can come from lots of different types of people. But it requires the right ingredients, the right chef and a willingness to experiment. It requires the right soil that allows for growth and experimentation. Most of all, it takes someone who is fearless, willing to fail and believes in her vision of tomorrow. 

I would argue that innovation can come from lots of types of people but it is in the right nourishing landscape where ideas are truly harvested. 

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