A great deal of lip service is given to innovation because it is always easier to talk about it than actually do anything about it.

De Bono’s definition of innovation is: ‘the putting into effect of something new for that organisation’. There could be many sources for what is new:

— It might be something borrowed or copied from another organisation.

— There might be a logical reaction to information and research data.

— There might be a logical design that puts forwards something new.

— There might be innovations produced directly by the exercise of creativity.

Innovation always requires a readiness to do something new, and anything new is risky, a distraction from the normal routine and requires commitment of some resources.

Because of this, many organisations are reluctant to try new things. Executives reach senior positions through being good at continuity and problem-solving; the readiness to try new things is not often a factor in a promotion.

There is also the fear of failure, as something new that doesn’t work out is deemed a mistake. There is no word for ‘a fully justified venture which, for reasons beyond your control, did not work’.

Many organisations work on the basis of osmosis, where if a new idea has been around for a long time and has been taken up by others then it becomes natural and low risk to adopt it. This is not a proactive approach. It is following rather than leading; not wanting to be left behind but not wanting to take the risks.

If a climate is created where there is a readiness to try new things and explore new possibilities then innovation can happen. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case, even when lip service is paid to innovation

From Management Intelligence, by Edward De Bono.


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