Innovation – it’s really simple and really hard.

man shows rope burnt palms


There’s a paradox that we can get caught up in today. With the huge amount of messaging we sort, filter and reject or accept minute by minute, the meaning of innovation gets tangled up with the question about what we allow ourselves to do. Deep down, we know that innovation is like climbing a rope, and ringing a bell: really simple and really hard. Our filters and awareness help to make it harder than it ever has been.

In the white noise of data, we can start to believe that our own reason for being has been superseded by somebody else. Simon Sinek has assumed ownership of the word ‘why’,

brands the order to ‘just do it’ and HP invents. Does this mean that we can’t use the word, demand the same action or do that for ourselves?

Our reluctance to tread on another’s toes or – worse – be condemned for doing so, is affecting our willingness to think creatively. This blog aims to shake off those shackles.

Operating frameworks are also organised to limit us. Looking up domains is a quick way of stifling your creativity. Apply for a trademark or a patent, and you’ll find that what you may want to do with a word or an idea depends on its context. But, in truth, Simon saying ‘why’ has absolutely no bearing on you using the word. Go ahead – find your own why.

So, let’s talk about innovation. We’re constantly fed the idea that innovation is a digital concept: AI, ML, RPA etc. It’s not. Not necessarily. Innovation is something that helps a consumer do something differently, or better, or that provides something that wasn’t available before. It moves the needle if you get the idea to market. When we run projects, we start from the premise that nothing is off the table.

In the late 90s, I ran a project to produce a non-stick cooking foil. The product launched from a parallel piece of work and non-stick foil is available today. The unmet consumer need was to stop cheese from sticking. We did it. We gave consumers a solution.

Because we can see so much data so quickly today, we know to be aware of competing activity and there’s an inbuilt sense that there are no new ideas. In the 1990s, if a non-stick foil was being developed in another company or country, it would have taken us a long time to find out. Because we were unaware (actually, we didn’t need to worry anyway), we got on with it.

The practice of being innovative requires us to start from a point of no restrictions., and this restricts us. As soon as we start to reason and apply acquired knowledge that filters an issue, we begin to see our consumers’ problems through the lens of our own experience

So, to get back to the point, innovation is like climbing a rope and ringing a bell: really simple and really hard. Start with simple. It’ll get hard soon enough.

Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.