What images come to mind when you hear the word “Innovation”?

One typical picture of “Innovation” is the light bulb over a head full of enthusiasm (Gyro Gearloose was assisted by the Little Helper).

Most of us have experienced the moment of inspiration…

That sense of satisfaction when we believe that we have “Eureka” something new (like Archimedes in the bath!). The question which arises here is “Is innovation just a flash?”

Let’s see what happened so far in the history of innovation.

Very long time ago somebody thought for the first time to light a fire and somebody else to use the wheel as a mean of moving items; Democritus (5th century BC) spoke for the first time about the discontinuity of matter; Plato and Aristotle (6th -5th century BC) were the first who spoke about psychological issues from a cognitive perspective; Archimedes (3rd century BC) was the first to connect the weight of matter with mass; J. Gutenberg (15th century) invented the process for mass-producing movable type; B. Franklin (18th century) invented the lightning rod; K. Macmillan (19th century) thought about the pedals for the bicycles; Tim Berners-Lee (20th century) introduced the WWW (World Wide Web) and we will probably see much more in the future.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1789) talked about his experience in the moment of inspiration and he presents it as an “inventive dream” which comes out of the blue! William Blake says that he was writing poems as if they were directly dictated often without his will! Inspiration is something great and there is no doubt about this!! But inspiration does not come before a vision and between inspiration and vision there is always… hard work and dedication. It is not a coincidence that many of the discoveries made by individuals over 50. It is also not a coincidence that many innovators never acted only in one area (see for yourself) suggesting that innovation is a mindset, a habit. Once innovative, always innovative… and everywhere innovative! I totally agree with Mr L. Schmitz who said that a person is not even aware of his/her science, if it’s the only thing he/she knows.

And when the idea comes, does everything ends there?

It takes time for implementation, improvement and of course innovation needs to be accepted by some social groups, otherwise it’s useless. So, in contrast with a common impression, innovation does not happen outright. Innovations are the result of established efforts. The “Eureka” moments might be the most important moments in the process of innovation, but they don’t account for the whole process. Inspiration may be the cherry on the cake, but not the cake per se.

To answer our question “Innovation is not just a flash”. Innovation is a process that requires work, effort, time, dedication on one hand and inspiration (the flash) on the other. When inspiration doesn’t come we should move on with the rest of the process and inspiration will come somehow as a natural outcome. Stay with the flow of work and you‘ll be rewarded without even knowing how. The results sometimes can be divine but innovation is not just an instant enlightenment.

(initially published on www.innovationfarm.eu)

Giorgos Kalfas

Managing Director and HR Consultant
A.TL.AS Consulting

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