Posted by: David Croslin
disruption, disruptive, innovate, innovation, invention
Having trouble creating new, innovative products? Does an impenetrable barrier seem to prevent your company from achieving (or regaining) a position of market dominance? Surprisingly, you’re probably at fault. You’ve created a “box” that limits your company, and most of your attempts to start innovating only make this box stronger and more limiting. This article explains the most common “box” that most companies create: their best and brightest employees.
Pain is one of the biggest inhibitors of new innovations. Pain comes in many forms.
I grew up working on construction crews, so I’ve likely driven a million nails of varying sizes, using hammers large and small. I can tell you that genuine skill is required to drive in a large nail—let’s pick a 16-penny nail, about 3.5 inches long—with three swings of a hammer, especially if you don’t want to “track” the wood with dents from the hammer blows. A properly driven nail just seems toshoot into the wood with those three strokes.
Believe it or not, I can clearly remember the first time I tried to drive nails like a professional carpenter. I watched the pros around me driving nails with easy, powerful, directed swings. The sheer power behind each swing was amazing to behold. I was terrified of hitting my thumb with that much power and watching my thumbnail fly off into the distance. (I have done this, and it’s not fun to recall.)
Let’s assume that you’ve never swung a hammer or driven a nail. You would very likely have the same terror as I did. Which tool would you rather use to drive that first nail?
- Tool A. A large metal block with a curved strap that wraps around your swinging hand.
- Tool B. A metal block with a small head attached on the end of a foot-long stick (a hammer).
At first, you probably would like using tool A. It would be much less likely to give you membership in the “black-and-blue thumb club.” No way are you going to miss the nail on the first swing using tool A.
But, after a while, the laughter of the other carpenters and the screams of your boss about productivity would push you to try tool B, the infamous thumb-bashing hammer. And you would either get good at using the hammer, or retire from the carpentry field.
The likelihood of improving the proverbial hammer is very small. And if you were an inventor trying to improve it, every smashed thumb would push you further toward the current design. If you had a lot of experience as a carpenter, you probably wouldn’t try to improve the hammer in the first place. There would just be too many (literally) painful memories.
The point is that invention and innovation can be very difficult. They can be made even harder if the box that defines how we invent and innovate is a box largely constructed from an attempt to avoid pain.
===> Read the rest of What Color is Your Innovation Box?.
David Croslin is the author of Innovate the Future, recently published by Prentice-Hall. Croslin is the former Chief Technologist at Hewlett-Packard and Chief Product Architect at Verizon Business. Executive teams are praising Croslin’s innovation process at leading telecom companies including ATT, Alcatel-Lucent and Rogers Communications.
Read a free sample from the book, Chapter 3, “The Innovation Life Cycle“.
Croslin’s LinkedIn group “Innovate the Future” connects more than four thousand leading innovators in eighty-five countries.