Feeding The Mechanisms That Drive Innovation26 July, 2016 / Articles
There’s a powerful myth that many people continue to believe in: that innovation comes about through a flash of inspiration, a “Eureka!” moment. In reality, innovation is fed by a constant diet of relevant and up-to-date information that can be reused and recombined to give shape to new ideas.
We usually become more innovative when we are exposed to processes that feed our brains with new ideas and situations: when we travel, when we live in a different country, when we attend a (good) class or conference, when we meet people who are very different from us. To feed our personal innovation machine, we need new information, different thoughts, alternative takes and approaches, surprising things that we can compare, contrast, and even admire.
In this context, the way we feed ourselves with information plays a fundamental role. Our capacity to innovate starts with the amount of new information we can provide our brain with. That is precisely why, in an environment with a clear tendency to information overload, infoxication, infobesity and, in contrast, a general inclination towards shallow reading, designing proper information strategies becomes a must.
No, skimming through a couple of newspapers, listening to the radio while we drive and sitting passively in front of the TV to watch the news is not enough anymore to feel properly informed, and even less to feed the required elements for innovative thinking. If you want to innovate in a topic, you must carpet bomb your brain with information until it starts screeching, process information in an efficient way, maintain dynamic reading lists and have the required means to rescue that information from repositories in case you need to go back to it.
My vision of the ideal business is a place where people are constantly looking for, classifying and digesting information, whose workers aren’t just “doing a job” but instead are so passionate about what they do that they want to keep up to date about trends in their field, to be experts and to keep their brains active by constantly taking new information on board.
Managing information efficiently means using the right technology to store and to be able to find it. In our personal lives we read alone or read things that others recommend to us. In the professional sphere we need to develop ways of working that go beyond merely filtering, sharing or commenting on relevant information we find, and also be able to see what other people are reading and sharing: the articles that the experts in their respective fields recommend.
It’s not hard to build social environments that are rich in information. In reality, with a Feedly or similar feed aggregator with advanced options, linked to a Slack or some other flexible and open corporate collaborative communication software, it’s possible to work wonders. But the technology is the least of it: I’d opt for the two above, but there are many more, depending on your needs and current status of technology adoption.
But what really matters here is creating a corporate culture with built in information detection, filtering and sharing processes so that the system attract those it needs to and rejects those it needs to reject, based on the degree to which they are really committed to their work. Several dozens, hundreds or thousands of adequately trained eyeballs can obviously see much more than two… can companies turn that into an opportunity, into an alert system that keeps employees well informed and helps spark innovation? Can non-technology companies learn to innovate and identify opportunities like startups do, but without suffering from their many vulnerabilities?
Companies unable to attract and retain people with a passion for what they do, who are constantly up to date and who aspire to be experts, influencers and opinion-makers in their field are doomed to mediocrity.