Marwane El Kharbili

Apr 28, 2008

About innovation...

I wanted to write once about innovation. Actually, this post by Scott Berkun about innovation motivated me to write my thoughts about a topic that I like a lot. Scott discusses his view on the subject and how to innovate immediately.

What is innovation? Who are innovators? And how do you innovate? Many people think that innovators are only people like Einstein, Galileo or newton. Revolutionary thinkers who have had success in bringing their ideas to the world and convince the world of the correctness of these. I am a computer scientist and a mathematician, that's why I have chosen scientists as example, but there is no reason why I should limit the scope of innovation to scientists. Innvators could be artists, architects, engineers, medicine doctors, your dog's veterinary, the guy who built all the houses in your district, the secretary of your colleague at work or any wife at home that has a full job managing a family, 4 children and a house. Innovators are not only people who have become famous for their ideas or realizations, famous innovators are only the peak of the iceberg. Most innovators will remain unknown to the general public forever, limiting themselves to the scope defined by the people their innovations influenced directly. with the pervasiveness of electronic information of the age we are living in, innovations are more likely to have a far wider reach than ever before though.

Innovation doesn't require you to revolutionize the world. Because every small thing that exists in this world can be made better, anybody can innovate. Innovation require you to simply have a different look on things as other people. If you look at the huge variety of lifestyles, of food and music in the world, you would notice that you woon't finde two places in the world where things are done the same way. The same music instruments are used in very different ways depending on the country. The way Moroccans play music with a violin, is completely different from the ways gypsies do, and even more different than the way violins are used in classical music. Another example: hamburgers are a very widely appreciated fast-food. Maybe for the wrong reasons. But is is a fact that no two restaurants in the US, europe, africa or asia do hamburgers the same way. This is a fact. people just have different perspectives on life.

Well applying your own perspective on life and on everything you may have to deal with, without caring about how it should be done, this is already innovation. Innovation is a state of mind. And innovation is sometimes the only way to bring you out of a dead end. because there is no solution to a certain problem, it doesn't necessarily mean that the problem has no solutions, it may simply mean that the problem needs to be looked at from a radically different perspective.

In order to innovate, ScottBerkun identified the following three steps:

1. Ask questions: Why are things done this way? What can be changed? How could it be done in a better way?

2. Try things: just keep on trying, and getting better. Nobody finds a solution to a problem on the first try, nobody. And experiencing things by yourself is the best way to learn what is lacking, missing, bad or good in a system. Again, here, accepting defeats or frustrations is sometimes the hard way to the top, the only way to the top. If you don not try to lose things yourself, nobody is going to do it for you. Because nobody else has asked himself the questions you have asked. If Ibn Sina (the famous Arab scientist who among other things made discoveries in human anatomy that are reference still today) also known as Avicenne in the western world, hadn't tried to find out how blood does go through our body and identified the body's veins network, it may well be that nobody would have.

3. Believe in what you are doing: there is a difference between taking other people's comments on what you are doing and following their comments. If you are doing things the wy you are, it is because you have good enough reasons for that. If you are honest with yourself and find answers to critics and comments from other people, that there is one of two paths you are going to take: either accept the comment of at least part of it, and thus adjusting your approach, or answering the critics because you have some arguments against them. If people accept them or not, this is their problem, as long as you are convinced of what you are doing and have good enough answers for yourself. People just may not see the new things and innovation you are bringing or understand what and why you are doing it, it doesn't mean that what you are doing desn't make sense.

4. Be curious: Learn what other people in other periods of history or periods of time have been doing. Learn from past errors and successes, in one sentence: search: analyze, learn and use.

5. Learn from your tries: just as in sports, trying without analyzing and learning from the new things that you have just tried, well, the try just doesn't help anyone.

If allied to the necessary open-mindedness and experience, being able to place yourself in a state of mind that allows you to look at things in unusual ways, may well lead you to come up with your next innovation. and any job in the world is a lot more interesting if it gives the necessary place to innovation. So keep innovating!

Marwane El Kharbili.


Sebastian said...

Basically you are talking about innovator and inventor. Innovation is done in small steps, inventions are usually revolutions.

Marwane said...

Yes, if you will. But this is not the only distinction. Even inventions are the result of many hard years of work, ob building on others work, and taking it further. Think about edison, he didn't invite all by himself. He use the work of people who prior to him made decisive steps towards achieving this. The disctinction you make might well be that innovations, can have huge effects, their mpact can even produce reviluions, like the computer. But innovating is not necessarily like that, innovating is more a awy of life and a way of work. Innovating is pushing back the boundaries of the commonly accepted, on each and every small occasion.