Friday, December 12, 2008

Innovation rule #1: Do respect the uniqueness of ideas

It seems to be the nature of large institutions to kill interesting ideas. Whether those institutions are governments or large corporations, there is an inexorable march towards blandness.

Think of an idea or vision as a crystal. It has a distinctive shape marked by jagged edges and depressions. Whether you think it good or bad, beautiful or ugly, it is distinctive and it makes an impact. When large organizations take an idea through the vetting process, each constituency sees a jagged edge they feel must be filed down or a depression that must be filled in. Before you know it, that distinctive crystal has morphed into a perfectly smooth sphere which represents the average of all points of view. Average ideas are almost guaranteed to generate average results.

This does not mean that you must cherish every jagged edge or depression. Some ideas are just plain stupid. But it does mean that you should respect the unique integrity of an idea. Inclusiveness is a respectable value, but not at the expense of the quality of your ideas.

So find the champions for your valuable crystals and let them move ahead. If there are people in your organization that cannot support a particular crystal, better to encourage them to find one they can support than to allow them to turn one into a sphere.

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