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Stop Looking for the Eureka Moment! 10 Myths of Innovation

According to Wikipedia, the Eureka Effect (also called Eureka Moment or Aha! Moment) refers to the “common human experience of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept.”  Unfortunately, it is “difficult to predict under what circumstances one can predict an Aha moment!”

The difficulty in predicting what circumstances create an AHA moment is what leads John Parkinson to call this Epiphany or AHA moment the first Myth in his list of Ten Myths of Innovation.

Our group had the fortunate opportunity to learn from John Parkinson as he keynoted a leadership webinar for us called “Lessons learned from running three corporate innovation centers.”  John has had an amazing 35 year career as a business and technology leader in in multiple companies.  He’s been a global CIO, run three major innovation centers, writes and speaks worldwide, (including CIO magazine) and currently is both an advisor and investor.  So when he speaks, you can bet his lessons learned come from years of earned experience.

In the first part of John’s presentation, he shared the five attributes of what he felt it meant to really be innovative in a corporation.  I wrote about that in my previous post.

In the second part of John’s presentation he shared what he called the Ten Myths of Innovation.

Here are four key Myths of Innovation from John’s list:

  1. The Myth of the Epiphany.
    Innovation has very few AHA moments where you say “Eureka”. It happens, but for less than 5% of actual innovation work that goes on.  Usually what you are doing is a lot of hard work chipping away at a problem that you have to make a new angle on to make it work.  Those sudden epiphanies are too rare to build a program around.
  2. People “Think” they know the story of great innovations
    But we don’t always hear the real story. Almost all innovation is built around incremental improvement that often results because something didn’t work properly.  An accident.  Things going wrong.  Changes in the world around you.  Or simply you had no choice!  Something stopped working; you would go out of business or find a new road.  The “Desperation” factor is more common than you think.
  3. There is a method for innovation.
    Not always true. You take the innovations where you can find them.  But there is a method for managing innovation.  You put into place a system that manages overall the flow of new ideas from concept to manageable results.
  4. Good ideas are hard to find.
    Not true! According to John, good ideas are everywhere.  When John was running Ernst and Young’s innovation program, he and his team found 100s of great ideas and most of the ideas came from the people doing the jobs throughout the organization!

So what this tells you that you will have the opportunity to innovate, there are plenty of people in the organization that will have good ideas, so there is great value in setting up an organization and a process that will find and bring to reality these new ideas to realize the value those ideas represent.

At Ernst and Young, John and his team generated enough ideas to save 100s of millions of dollars a year in operating cost savings and 100s of millions of dollars a year in new revenue.  These were opportunities found with very little investment.

So stop looking for the Eureka moment and start looking around you for ideas to innovate!  Come up with a process to talk to people throughout the organization, seek out and find these ideas, rank them and then implement them.  You’ll achieve incremental growth with new ideas and if you create a process that picks the right ideas, this growth will compound itself and achieve great gains for you and your company


What about your company?  Do you have a systematic approach to finding new ideas, ranking them and implementing them? 

Special thanks to John Parkinson for his excellent presentation!

Updated: November 2, 2016 — 3:24 pm

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