Innovation is hard. Just look at Research in Motion (the makers of BlackBerry) or Nokia who have been praised as the leaders and innovators in their field and who are struggling to come up with products and services to compete in the changing mobile landscape.
I stumbled upon this infographic, which does not contain any concrete information but instead gives an artistic, visual impression of the creative process. There are two ways to react to this graphic and I think they can teach us a lot how we see innovation.
Reaction 1: Embracing the chaos for more creativity
If your first reaction to this image is to agree with this visual representation of the creative process and that it is a complex, unstructured process that may or may not lead to innovations you probably have experienced these moments when somebody, somehow has a breakthrough moment where everybody just knew that this idea will lead to a breakthrough.
It is very hard to plan for these moments and the fundamental truth remains: You can’t force humans to think faster or creatively. You just have to manage to create a process that allows these ideas to emerge. Nevertheless a complete lack of structure without any constraints will never lead to any results either.
Reaction 2: Structuring the chaos for more creativity
If you look at that image and say “What’s that? Just some painting – this needs to get structured!” you have probably experienced the benefits of structuring and clearly defining processes to achieve the best results. Academic research has shown correctly that structuring processes has lead to better quality, predictability and ultimately efficiency and efficacy.
Removing these processes will not necessarily lead to an improvement because planning for “Heureka” moments of inspiration and insights is impossible because they have to come from within the individuals that are engaged in this process and cannot be forced upon them.
Is there a solution?
So the ultimate question is: Is there a solution to this challenge of structuring the chaos while at the same time embracing the necessary freedom to let chaos emerge? The answer is: There are solutions, but there is not one single recipe that could be applied in a recipe-like style. From my personal experience it depends just so much on the corporate culture and I am thinking of using this image in the future to get a better grasp how companies see the creativity and innovation challenge by asking them: If you look at this picture, would you rather embrace the chaos or structure the chaos to develop breakthrough innovations.
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