Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Getting Unstuck: Two Necessary Ingredients For Innovation

The thing wasn't working.

I had already done the thing. Spent time money and valuable resources on the thing. Dragged other people into helping me do the thing and convinced them that the thing would work. Some had even joined in my excitement for the thing.

But the thing didn't work.

New Ideas and Added Value

Innovation has two parts.

Innovation is about the implementation of new ideas. This can be scary. Because new ideas, by definition, are unproven. We don't know if this idea will work. We don't know if it will be a big waste of energy and resources. It's unproven.

Innovation is also about those new ideas adding value. This is important. New ideas can be cheap. Doing something new doesn't equate to doing something valuable. Innovative ideas must result in added value.

I can find a new way to get to my local grocery store. That's not so difficult. It's possible to get to my local grocery store by way of New Jersey. I live in South Carolina. However, there's no added value to taking three days and spending money for food and hotels to get to the store.

Innovation is if I figure out a new route to my local grocery store in a way that saves me time (shaves off a quarter mile or cuts out a long traffic light) or adds beauty (takes me through a quaint, old neighborhood or past a house with a large flower garden). A new way, adding value to my drive.

Innovation is executing on a new idea that adds value to me or to my customer (client, coworkers, etc,).

When a new idea fails to add value - innovate.

Back to the thing that didn't work. I spent a lot of time doing a thing I thought was going to pan out. I involved a lot of people. I spent money. I even involved the president of my organization.

The result was less than stellar. The result of my new idea was an entire project stuck in the mud.

Thus, I was stuck in the mud.

What do we do when stuck in the mud?

One of two things. Stay stuck in the mud forever (which, let's be honest, is not an option). Or - innovate again.

We always need new ideas. In fact, ideating should be a part of your everyday process. New ideas are all around us, if we know where to look. They're in books and internet articles; in conversations with a spouse or a child or a co-worker. They are in the a recess of our brains that we air out while walking the dog, or even somewhere on that new route to the grocery store.

I found a new idea related to my thing in a discussion with a coworker.

That idea got me unstuck.

And I put the new idea into action. (It involved a phone conversation.)

Another new idea emerged.

Now it's time to install a new plan, to see if the value will come. Will the new thing work? We'll only know when the idea is executed. Thus, we begin again, looking for the value to come.

Innovation is iterative. It requires patience and careful thought.

It's also necessary because it's usually the only way out of the mud.