Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Myths of Innovation

Guy Kawasaki has a very interesting interview with Scott Berkun, author of a recently released book called The Myths of Innovation. Here are some of the highlights for me.

"A killer for many would-be geniuses is they have to spend way more time persuading and convincing others as they do inventing, and they don’t have the skills or emotional endurance for it."

No wonder I'm exhausted :)

"The problem is most schools and organizations train us out of the habits [of creativity]."

That reminded me of Sir Ken Robinson's observation that, "we’re now running educational systems where mistakes are the worst things you can make. The result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacity." And Bill Gates who said, "America’s high schools are obsolete... – even when they’re working exactly as designed – [they] cannot teach our kids what they need to know today."

"If [I was] a venture capitalist, ...I’d invest in people more than ideas or business plans—though those are important of course. A great entrepreneur who won’t give up and will keep growing and learning is gold. It’s a tiny percentage of entrepreneurs who have any real success the first few times out—3M, Ford, Flickr were all second or third efforts."

Amen

12 comments:

Kerry Neubrander said...

"The problem is most schools and organizations train us out of the habits [of creativity]."

I've seen this kind of thing before. It certainly sounds compelling. A lot of people want to believe it. But is it actually true?

evan said...

I think so. Many (most?) organizations larger than, say, 150 people are encumbering their lead dogs and promoting stifling cultural norms. Most people are doing just enough not to get fired, while the best are trying not to do too much as to be seen as overachieving.

Kerry Neubrander said...

When I read that the first time, I saw "schools" and totally missed "organizations." So my question was about schools.

As an anecdote about organizations. I know a guy who works for a Japanese company. His bosses tell him he has to innovate, but then refuse to fund new ideas because they're risky.

Swamp Fox said...

Kerry

It's incredible to me that you have any doubt that schools systematically drive creativity out of students.

The A students are the ones that are best at absorbing facts and then regurgitating them on tests, especially the high stake tests PACT and the SAT. For those chidren the existing school system is a good fit.

The fidgety kid - the one whose mind races and who can connect disparate thoughts in novel ways - we label that kid as having a disorder like ADHD and tell his parents to put him on medicine so he can calm down and conform. If that kid is lucky, he'll survive the system long enough to find a place where he can thrive. Too many though, drop out labeled as failures and never recover.

If schools were truly about developing the creative potential of their students, they’d put as much emphasis on the arts as they do the sciences. (It's a whole different issue that they don't even do what they emphasize very well.)

Swamp Fox said...

Evan

That world view will hold you back. Many large organizations are highly effective, and many small ones are dysfunctional. It's true that small organizations can turn on a dime, but large ones have the ability to deploy resources on a global scale. They key is being able to leverage both small and large organizations where each is best able to accomplish the job at hand.

Former A-Student said...

On the schools/A-student comment. A friend of mine pointed out that "A-students teach, and B-students work for C-students". I am a former A-student who now consults and trains. Thinking through my client files, I find her statement to be mostly true. The entrepreneurs I know were not the A-students.

I doubt our ability to change the school system, but am confident of our ability to change organizational leadership. Some of us are trying, one company at a time. Innovative thinking can be learned, perhaps not by everyone, but by enough to hopefully make a difference one day.

Kerry Neubrander said...

John,

you make my case that it is easily believable that schools "train us out of the habits [of creativity]." However, I am asking if this has ever actually been demonstrated in a well-designed study.

Steve said...

One of the reasons behind Clemson's "creative inquiry" initiative is to address the fact that students have become fact regurgitators. However, there's more to the issue.

One of my PhD students just completed his dissertation with the role of expertise in success. We found out that there are five pieces: creativity, critical thinking, reasoning, content mastery, and problem-solving. K-12 and universities only push content. We tested successful computer scientists in government, military, business, and academe: all were superior critical thinkers.

Swamp Fox said...

Steve

That's a good, analytical way to look at creativity.

Did Mozart or Van Gogh proceed through a process of creativity, critical thinking, reasoning, content mastery, and problem-solving?

There is a human, intuitive aspect of creativity that defies being captured in an analytical box. There is as much of an emotional aspect to creativity as there is an analytical one that creates the spark.

Call it "informed intuition."

It's why schools need to teach arts every bit as much as they need to teach science and math.

Anonymous said...

Former a-student wrote:
I doubt our ability to change the school system, but am confident of our ability to change organizational leadership. Some of us are trying, one company at a time. Innovative thinking can be learned, perhaps not by everyone, but by enough to hopefully make a difference one day."

After substitute teaching for a few months in Upstate SC high schools I was astonished at what those students were not equipped to do. I don't have the solution for the educational system, but I do have faith in American youth. When pressed with the right leadership, they will adapt and their creativity will break forth. One comment earlier from Clemson University wrote: " We tested successful computer scientists in government, military, business, and academe: all were superior critical thinkers." Schools may be largely missing "it" (creative thinking), but they cannot destroy it. Those of us in business leadership have a great calling: mine the gold!

Silver haired baby boomer

Swamp Fox said...

I optimistic about human resiliency too. But when half the students do not graduate from high school on time, almost certainly some of those lives have been destroyed and they’ll never recover.

Joe Schmid said...

Invention and Innovation are two very different things. Applied Creativity can be taught in the classroom (the processes, thinking, tools, etc.). This learning can be successfully leveraged to increase the output of Inventions – novel unique ideas.

Innovation, on the other hand, is the successful commercialization of an invention.

Different words with very different meanings. Yet these two words are not differentiated in the classroom and are more commonly used interchangeably.

The following is excerpted from the book “Entrepreneurship – How to Start and Operate A Small Business”, by Steve Maroiotti with Tony Towle, published by The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship. This book is used in upstate SC high schools in their entrepreneurial course. There are many good things about this book. However, in Chapter 1, third paragraph, “Some people start their own businesses and work for themselves. They are called entrepreneurs.” The statistics better support that they be called “fools”.

The word entrepreneur has become so corrupted it probably best not be used anymore (although a whole “industry” has emerged that markets, caters, teaches, and sells to the notion).
An entrepreneur by definition is a person who assumes risk. In practice, a true entrepreneur does not take chances (a common misconception). They are adept do very well at managing risk. They innovate (they do not have to be the inventor). The word entrepreneur is best used to describe a “market disruptor”. An entrepreneur is someone who enters a market and turns the price/value relationship on its ear (a.k.a. innovation). Entrepreneurs are change agents. An inventor is not necessarily

An inventor may generally feel stifled by the reality of moving forward with their invention. An innovator, the entrepreneur would be energized by that same reality.

No school or organization trains us out of creativity. Balancing Freedom and Order is a difficult. Without order there is chaos. Order is essential for organization sustainability. Personal denial is a cozy way to be too. Learning to step-up and work within the boundaries of order isn’t that hard, it’s just easier not to and transfer blame to someone/something else.

Are our high schools obsolete? It depends on how you measure it. To the extent that they are not producing motivated, technical savvy students who can communicate, I would have to agree. A high school administrator by the name of Karl Fisch put the original Shift Happens PowerPoint presentation together for his fellow teachers at Arapahoe High School in Littleton, Colorado. Here is a link to it http://www.lps.k12.co.us/schools/arapahoe/fisch/didyouknow/didyouknow.ppt#75

High school students and teachers ought to use this presentation as part of the context they use as they make decisions on the significance of choices in the learning process.