Innovation Fallacy #1 – We love new ideas and creativity, therefore we are innovative!

I often come across people where someone would say “we love new ideas and we have a true innovative culture”. I do not believe on this statement unless I see a clear evidence of this. Why?

By nature, human beings have a conservative and conformity driven mindset. Try something different; next time try to stand rather than sit, in your next group meeting. How accepting were your peers? Conformity is deep in our genes. While talking about creativity is very popular, actually being creative puts your social status in risk. All great ideas and discoveries were rejected, ofter for years or decades, yet we ignore this part of our history.

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Take the example of Pasteurization process. Lois Pasteur thought that disease was spread by germs. He made the discovery after three of his five children died from infectious diseases. When he first put forward his theory in the 1850’s he was met with violent resistance from the medial community. Today in large part due to his work, we know that certain bacteria are responsible for sickness, and minimizing germs is a key to promoting healthy immune function. And our history is full of such stories.

The history of breakthroughs is a tale of persistence against rejection. Much of what makes a successful innovator is their ability to persuade and convince conservative people of the merit of their ideas, a very different skill from creativity itself. Your problem is likely not your ideas, but your skills for pitching ideas to others.

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Ideas are rarely rejected on their merits; they’re rejected because of how they make people feel. The bigger the idea, the harder the persuasion challenge.

Only when we understand our behaviors then we can work towards establishing a culture and system which allows us to adapt new practices and behaviors to estimate new ideas on merit instead of the power of the leader or someone high up in the power corridor. 

Therefore unless I see an evidence of a system where new ideas are captured and shaped iteratively, I keep my doubts.

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