I asked this question at a recent CoLearn MeetUp to a fellow colearner and he was quite taken aback by the question. It is a tough one and I think the question quickly pegs down your beliefs about how we learn. Are some people just born innovative or can you follow a process to be innovative (and in essence be taught how to be innovative)? Replace innovation with creativity in the question and what do you think? Can you teach someone to be creative? When we think of innovative thinkers and doers, we often would also think of them as being creative. Is the capacity to see and discover new opportunities or possibilities a genetic predisposition or a process that can be taught? In my opinion, I believe you can teach someone to be innovative and creative. It all comes down to discipline. Let me explain.
Currently I am reading and rereading (such a good book!) Larry Keeley’s book Ten Types of Innovation. The byline is “The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs”. Keeley and his colleagues have spent the past thirty years living and breathing innovation and had me hooked by the second page when I read the following provocation.
What do you do when the problems are real, the stakes are high, time is short, and abstract answers are inadequate?
Education = real problems, high stakes, no time and no tolerance for ambiguity. So where do we go from here? Through analysing innovation over thirty years, Keeley and team of Ryan Pikkel, Brian Quinn and Helen Waters have discovered that there are ten types of innovation. A “periodic table of innovation” as they eloquently put it. The below image lists the ten types.
I will unpack the ten types in a later post but I want to focus on the demystification that Keeley kicks the book off with and return to my original question. He firstly defines innovation as “the creation of of a viable new offering”. He then dispels common myths about innovation by stating the following:
Innovation is not invention
Think beyond products
Very little is truly new in innovation
Innovations have to earn their keep
Innovation requires discipline
The last point is one that keeps popping up when I read works from innovation leaders and experts from around the world. Valerie Hannan and her team at the Innovation Unit have developed the Disciplined Innovation Model and believe that for lasting change to occur, innovation needs to systematic and disciplined. Eric Ries, the pioneer of the Lean Start Up uses the discipline of the scientific method and fast feedback loops to drive innovation success. This process has revolutionised business all over the world. Jake Knapp and the team at Google Ventures have a developed a five day design sprint method designed to reduce assumptions and build solutions that work and this process is disciplined and systematic and has helped organisations like Slack develop and improve.
Innovation = disciplined.
Great innovation follows a process and so can be taught. I’ll finish with a provocation…
Do you believe creativity can be taught?
Thanks as always for reading.