Innovation – Do it because you can’t not do it

Innovation - Do it because you can't not do itInnovators are often labelled ‘idealists’. Against overwhelming odds – tilting at the heavily defended battlements of scientific management theory – they persist in pushing the boundaries, probing for breakthroughs with little thanks. Why?

“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion,” wrote German philosopher, Friedrich Hegel, one of the founders of European idealism. Prolific innovation blogger and speaker, Mitch Ditkoff, says those who try to explain innovators’ drive in corporate terms usually fail to understand why they do what they do. “In my experience, the origin of innovation is fascination – the state of being intensely interested in something,” Ditkoff says. “Enchanted. Captivated. Spellbound. Absorbed.”

As Daniel Pink explores in his best-selling novel on motivation, Drive, the quest for mastery is a powerful intrinsic motivation. Mastery is a learning mindset, Pink says, and an exercise in perseverance for something you may never fully realise. “But it’s also a source of allure,” he adds. “Why not reach for it? In the end, mastery attracts precisely because mastery eludes.”

University of Queensland innovation researcher, Tim Kastelle, agrees. “Successful innovators innovate because they have to,” Kastelle says. “They have an idea and they must see it become real. Or they see a problem and they can’t rest until it’s fixed.” Sometimes they get so caught up in the excitement that, like the cartoon character, Wile E Coyote, they run right off the cliff. “Sometimes, you’ll discover you have a parachute,” Kastelle says. “Other (times), you’ll crash like Wile E Coyote. Wile E Coyote’s problem isn’t that he falls. His problem is that he doesn’t learn from it.”

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Clearworks - Customers, Connections, Clarity

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Plan to be Punched in the FaceA former journalist and strategic communication specialist, Josie Gibson set up a CFO network, among other things, and now works with companies on creativity and innovation initiatives.

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4 Responses to Innovation – Do it because you can’t not do it

  1. True, but incomplete– innovators as well as inventors must be compensated for their work and investment, which is not occurring at the level it needs to today. Almost all humans have multiple motivations that require multiple incentives to optimize and manage well. The problem I have with this lopsided view is that it sounds like nirvana to the competitive intelligence view of the world from inside global monopolies–the same ones who promote open innovation, who are very well compensated to exploit creative people who have multiple motivations and needs. The overwhelming culture and behavior in market leading companies today essentially expects others to work for free while they are compensated very well indeed. And there seems to be an unwritten rule that everyone who works in innovation better line up with the philosophy or be cut off from the bread crumbs.. even frankly pressure to cross the line where stealing of IP and IC has become the norm, not the exception. This is a clear sign of systemic market and systems failure– functioning meritocracy is essential– eventually even for pure monopolies.

    • I take your point about the generally inadequate compensation for creative activities and outputs, and the systemic obstacles to change seem immense and well-entrenched. It’s a complex issue, though, when it comes to intrinsic motivation. Given the extensive research into creativity, motivation and rewards highlighted by Teresa Amabile, Daniel Pink and others, how do you drive systemic change without killing the goose that lays the golden egg? There is no questions that innovators and creators should be compensated fairly in a competitive environment, yet do we expect them to help lead the drive for change? And what impact would that have on their motivation to create/innovate (the research would suggest this would actually impair their creativity)… Are there sectors outside the traditional creative industries where such systemic change – ie, a reappraisal of the high value of creativity and innovation – is occurring?

  2. The nice thing about our work is that most of it is first-hand and we tend to lead academia by many years. It is a highly complex topic with solutions that are simple enough to function quite difficult, but at least now are possible in the information workplace– from a pragmatic perspective they were not until recently. Ironically, some of those companies that are the most innovation challenged have prevented adoption of more advanced systems apparently due to their own internal intel that suggests they are among the largest beneficiaries of a dysfunctional system. It’s far more complex than the great majority of naive experts are aware of I’m afraid– it took me a long while and many tests to include one on one with leaders in multiple market leaders in our industry cluster. I too was naive.

    Thanks for the focus and discussion–MM

  3. Pingback: Articles of Interest 6/1/2012 « National Creativity Network

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