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Excerpted from The Heart of Innovation:

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I own a huge library of books on innovation. Mostly hardcover. The $27.95 variety with big indexes and forwards by people who make more money than I do.

Some of these books are actually good. Most of them bore me. (I must confess I have a secret desire, whenever I enter a bookstore, to put glue between pages 187 & 188 in all of the new releases just to see if the publishers get any complaints).

The books attempt to describe the origins of innovation. You know, stuff like “the innate human impulse to find a better way” and “the imperative to find a competitive edge.” That sort of thing.

Corporate-speak, in other words.

In my experience, the origin of innovation is fascination — the state of being intensely interested in something. Enchanted. Captivated. Spellbound. Absorbed.

What kids are naturally good at.

Kids and those mavericks at work who make everyone nervous and running for their spreadsheets at the drop of a hat.

A person who is fascinated does not need to be motivated… or managed… or “incentivized.”

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All that person needs is time, some resources, meaningful collaboration, and periodic reality checks from someone who understands what fascination is all about.

That’s why Google gives its workforce 20% of their time to explore projects on their own. That’s why 3M and W.L. Gore do something similar. They know that the root of innovation is fascination.

If you, or the people who report to you, are not currently in a state of fascination it’s time to turn things around. That is, IF you want to spark some innovation.

How do you do this?

For starters, here’s one way, excerpted from Awake at the Wheel.

THE SEED OF FASCINATION

1. On a piece of paper, create three parallel headlines — “What Fascinates Me,” “People I Admire,” and “What I Would Do If I Knew I Couldn’t Fail.”

2. Jot down at least five responses beneath each headline.

3. Look for intriguing, new connections between your responses. Any insights? Ahas?

4. Jot down your new ideas.

5. Circle your favorite idea and brainstorm it with a friend. Then pitch anyone who’s influence can help you launch your ideas for how to bring more fascinating projects into your work life.

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