One of the great joys of working with ideas is that it’s always fresh and there is always more of them out there. The awesome feeling when people start collaborating and the ideas spiral into the realm of the unreal. Instinctively we know when the ideas cross the line but by that stage we have moved beyond trying to dredge up ideas for the sake of it and genuinely playing without the inner-critic.
Having just gone through the treadmill that is handing over 6 years of my working life to colleagues is a real mixed bag of feelings. Somehow you feel a bit inadequate when your hand over document (which represents your daily contribution) turns out to be about 5 or 6 typed pages. Enough of that talk however.
The new role, that of full time innovation is daunting. I knew it was risky and challenging but it has been non-stop. I have become a lightning rod for all things “different” and this brings with it the liberating feeling of being allowed to spend time thinking differently but at the same time have to constantly keep check on my own biases when other people approach me with their thinking. It’s hard work. I feel that the heart of innovation is seeing connection with touches of creativity, but I don’t consider creativity to equal innovation. A creative person does not have to be innovative but innovation requires creativity. What I mean by “creative” is actually being aware of my meta-cognitive processes and giving myself license to bend and even temporarily ignore them for the sake of seeing new connections. Now the connections have always been there, inherent in “pieces” – it’s not the pieces that change, rather our ability to re-frame and change the context of what the pieces can be. I really do think that it isn’t the spoon that bends…
I will freely admit that I underestimated how hard it is to be the guy that has to bring the energy to every meeting. People expect the innovation guy to be that overly excited, reality-of-the-situation-ignoring person that has enough “positive” (whatever that means) to counter the rooms negative. It’s funny how often now people get so negative as soon as I open my mouth – like there is a scoreboard of how many ideas can be shot down. It has become like sport to see how creative the negativity can get almost as if the innovation is in actually killing an idea off (triumphantly) before it can become infectious – I refer to this as negovation.
Negovation is when people harness their creativity and enthusiasm to understand enough of your meta-cognition to counter it. They make enough creative effort to hold to their own exclusive world-view.
Negovation is the language of “but” and “I told you so” and fear of change.
Negovation is when someone is telling you that you’re not bending the spoon, you’re breaking it AND it was the last spoon. In otherwords, they are creatively reinforcing their own meta-cognition. Innovation has a feeling of “lets see where this could go”. Negovation is “lets see where this shouldn’t go”. If innovation is seeing new connections, negovation is seeing roadblocks. You get what I mean.
We are told that innovation is about breadth – it’s 2 successes in 10 – the innovation is in letting yourself fail safely and then celebrate the times when you don’t. The dream is those two successes accelerate the business in bold new ways that half a dozen safe increments couldn’t. The flip-side, negovation thinking is about being aware that there are 8 failures in 10 and punishing them accordingly. It is the hope that status quo is maintained.
There seems to be this idea that innovation is about putting the whole farm on massive change. I don’t see it that way. I see innovation as putting a small side bet on the fact that things could change in subtle or strange ways and the desire to be a leader in the change. The wisdom of gambling is that you only bet what you are willing to lose.