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by • 4 Feb, 2011 • InspirationComments (5)4710

There’s no such thing as innovation

Innovation is scary. And the fear of innovation keeps many of us from innovating. So let me try to take a position and state that innovation does not exist. Only maybe once every hundred years something truly innovative happens. And then often by chance. Everything else we call innovation is only a remix of what already exists.

Creativity – together with guts the thing responsible for innovation – is something rare. A particular eye-opener to me was John Cleese’s ideas on the origins of creativity as can be seen in the movie below. Creativity is something magic. As opposed to having good ideas (every now and then), which is something you can learn. A skill.

I am not a creative person. However I do occasionally have good ideas. A good idea comes from taking what already exists and applying it differently. It’s why I always advocate looking beyond your own sector, travelling and meeting new people. This, and more, provides you with the building blocks of future good ideas. This is remixing. Whether it happens in the movies, as seen in the video above, or in your job doesn’t matter.

Many of the most innovative ideas in the world (agriculture, cars, space travel) do not have their origins in creativity. They have their origins in good ideas. And a good idea is something everybody can have. Everybody has, in fact.

So, there is no such thing as scary innovation. There is no such thing as taking a huge step into the unknown. What there is however, is looking for things we can apply to improve whatever we’re doing. A simple good idea will do. Remix whatever is already there and we’ll probably do better at innovating than by fearing this difficult process of truly creative (and daring) innovation.

To me this insight has proven one of the most valuable in recent years. It means that whenever I’m stuck and need to “innovate” I can go running or read a book. Probably the “creative innovation” is hidden in the streets or between the lines and all that’s needed to unlock it, is a good idea.

Forget about innovation. Go have good ideas.

P.S. There’re a lot of advantages of good ideas above innovation. For instance, it’s easier to sell a remix because people already know some of it. Also, it’s probably cheaper to innovate through good ideas than creativity, as you can use existing building bricks.

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  • JeroenS

    Isn’t this just semantic? Or are you trying to break down the thought of hierarchy (good idea! that’s really creative! Now, this is what I call innovation!)?

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  • Of course there’s a lot of semantics in this. Being limited in what you do by semantics, though, is terrible. And maybe that’s why I wrote this.

    I believe there’s no hierchy of thought. There’s a huge misunderstanding of the power of thought, and creativity is overrated. It’s like singing: some sing better than others, but everybody can do something worthwhile singing. Same with creativity/good ideas.

  • Swapnaa Tamhane

    Its interesting, but considering the time we live in, and the fact that we are likely never at our “desk”, nor at any other stationary spot for too long, being creative I think is also transforming. So I somewhat disagree with Cleese here, and his somewhat old-fashioned ideas of what, how, where to be creative.

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