Innovation: Lessons From History

I finally finished reading Walter Isaacson’s, The Innovators, this weekend and it was a thoroughly enjodavinci-vmanyable read. In the last Chapter, Ada Forever, Isaacson describes the lessons history has taught us when it comes to innovation.

First and foremost is that creativity is a collaborative process. Innovation comes from teams more often than from the light bulb moments of lone geniuses. This was true of every era of creative ferment. The Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution all had their institutions for collaborative work and their networks for sharing ideas.

Ideas are, more often than not, an evolution as opposed to a revolution…

…it was based on expanding ideas handed down from previous generations. The collaboration was not merely among contemporaries, but also between generations. The best innovators were the ones who understood the trajectory of technological change and took the baton from innovators who preceded them.

A balanced team is best…

The most productive teams were those that brought together people with a wide array of specialties. Bell Labs was a classic example. In its long corridors in suburban New Jersey, there were theoretical physicists, experimentalists, material scientists, engineers, a few businessmen, and even some telephone-pole climbers with grease under their fingernails.

Co-location rules…

Even though the Internet provided a tool for virtual and distant collaborations another lesson of digital-age innovation is that, now as in the past, physical proximity is beneficial….Predictions that digital tools would allow workers to telecommute were never fully realized. One of Marissa Mayer’s first acts as CEO of Yahoo! was to discourage the practice of working from home, rightly pointing out that “people are more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.

The best leadership team combines vision and fosters collaboration…

Throughout history the best leadership has come from teams that combined people with complementary styles…pairing visionaries, who can generate ideas, with operating managers, who can execute them. Visions without execution are hallucinations. Robert Noyce and Gordon More were both visionaries, which is why it was important that their first hire at Intel was Andy Grove, who knew how to impose crisp management procedures, force people to focus, and get things done. Visionaries who lack such teams around them often go down in history as merely footnotes.

The most successful endeavors in the digital age were those run by leaders who fostered collaboration while also providing a clear vision. Too often these are seen as conflicting traits: a leader is either very inclusive or a passionate visionary. But the best leaders could be both.

The most successful had one thing in common…

…they were product people. They cared about and deeply understood, the engineering and design. They were not primarily marketers or salesmen or financial types; when such folks took over companies, it was often to the detriment of sustained innovation. “When the sales guys run the company, the product guys don’t matter so much, and a lot of them just turn off,” Jobs said. Larry Page felt the same: “The best leaders are those with the deepest understanding of the engineering and product design.

In summation…

“…innovation will come from people who are able to link beauty to engineering, humanity to technology, and poetry to processors. In other words…creators who can flourish where the arts intersect with the sciences and have a rebellious sense of wonder that opens them up to the beauty of both.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Beyond Philosophy | CX Consultants | Customer Experience

Customer Experience, Design Thinking, Innovation, Strategy and Leadership

I J Golding

Just another WordPress.com site

Virgin - Richard

Customer Experience, Design Thinking, Innovation, Strategy and Leadership

Successful Outcomes

Customer Experience, Design Thinking, Innovation, Strategy and Leadership

The Customer & Leadership Blog

provocative conversations: questioning conventional wisdom / stimulating original thinking

Seth Godin's Blog on marketing, tribes and respect

Customer Experience, Design Thinking, Innovation, Strategy and Leadership

%d bloggers like this: