I’ve been fascinated for some time — not obsessed, just fascinated — with the process of innovation. I like creating new things, but I also like to watch how others do it. Along the way I’ve seen the widespread assumption that some people are wired to innovate and some aren’t.
A column by Janet Rae-Dupree in this past Sunday’s New York Times, Eureka! It really does take years of hard work, does a nice job of unraveling that myth:
As humans, we want to believe that creativity and innovation come in flashes of pure brilliance, with great thunderclaps and echoing ahas. Innovators and other creative types, we believe, stand apart from the crowd, wielding secrets and magical talents beyond the rest of us.
Balderdash. Epiphany has little to do with either creativity or innovation. Instead, innovation is a slow process of accretion, building small insight upon interesting fact upon tried-and-true process.
In the newspaper business, we have the Newspaper Next initiative, which tends to get a lot of attention for its message of innovation around new products, new audiences and new advertisers. But that makes innovation sound like the job of the few, not the many. The more powerful message within Newspaper Next is that innovation can and should run through the whole organization.
How can that happen in the context of the existing daily newspaper product?
How about understanding what the core audience of the print newspaper needs (aka “jobs to be done”) and ruthlessly making it so. How many newspaper readers feel the newspaper is speaking to them? What would it take to make it so? What needs to be added? What could be jettisoned?
How many newspaper advertisers feel their sales reps are truly listening to them, understanding the jobs they need done, and proposing solutions? That’s a whole lot different than “selling” one more special section. Innovation means thinking differently about the customer relationship, not just selling.
Bottom line: Innovation is possible — and critical, at these times — in every area of our organizations. It most likely is the key to survival.
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