Innovation Does Not Come From The Well-Worn Path

03/15/2024 11:39 PM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)

Contributing Authors: Denise Ross, Cyndi Nagel, Paul Venderley

“According to PwC’s annual CEO Survey, business leaders recognize the need to increase their organizations’ ability to learn and innovate.” “CEOs also are seeking greater creativity from employees. One CEO in our survey described creativity as "a skill that is always in need." “Learning executives must understand the technological capabilities needed for future business growth.”

The above quotes came from an ATD article - Creating Value with Talent Strategies - published nine years ago. Their sentiments are echoed today as business leaders continue to examine the disruptive technologies and question how they can utilize them to better achieve their own organizational goals.

How do we, as talent development professionals, support business leaders in developing innovation and creative mindsets in their organizations? Perhaps by reminding people that:

"Innovation does not come from the well-worn path."

Of the myriad insights shared by David Patrick at last week’s InsightXplore, this is the one that my mind was able to process best.

When we try to innovate, he asks, do we base our ideas on a flawed model? Do we tackle problems that have been analyzed until any further advancement would result in an incremental increase in efficiency? Or do we build upon an inspiration that picks apart the existing models?

For David, the inspiration that picked apart the existing models was one singular revelation: “The universe is spinning on three axes.” And from that motion the universe created six essential shapes that we see in the natural world around us.

"An innovation-friendly culture gives its people the freedom to imagine the unimaginable. The next big idea can come from anyone and anywhere, and failure is considered a learning opportunity."

David described innovation as a journey of constant failure. The idea may “fall out of the clear blue sky,” but manifesting the idea in a method that others can understand takes work and persistence. After his initial discovery, David’s pursuit was to create a model of a simple sphere rotating on three axes. His fantastic models and inventions, while remarkable, were at their heart practical applications to prove his premise correct.

Throughout his work, David validated if he was on the right track by asking:

  1. Is this unique?  
    Stay off the well-worn path.
  2. Is this simple?
    Don't overcomplicate the solution. 
  3. Does this cover everything without exception?
In some cases, David didn’t have the technology to adequately represent the patterns he was envisioning. In other cases, he just needed to turn his inventions onto a different axis in order to manifest their benefit. However, he viewed each failure as a step towards his goal; a challenge to explore a new field or technology that would give him the tools he needed to succeed.

Allow that journey to unfold, and you'll have it in you to uncover the secrets of the universe.

How does this relate to talent development?

  1. Question existing models. Models work and premises are true, until they don't and aren't and a different way of looking at things is discovered.
    At one point in time, the well-worn path asserted the earth was flat.

  2. If something doesn't seem to fit or make sense any longer, explore other perspectives. There are other people in other fields who may be studying concepts similar to yours.
    David provided a fascinating example of the shape of an electron and how it is defined using the Standard Model vs. quantum mechanics.

  3. Don't be afraid of change. Embrace it. How can you use technological disruptions to your advantage?
    The example here, of course, is AI, a tool that can make us more efficient, but not replaceable. How can we use AI to inspire, to initiate change within our own processes?

David Patrick shares his inspirations with ATDOC members

I’ve got to take some time to process the remainder of what was shared that night. Fortunately, David Patrick is very giving of his time, offering to continue the discussion any time we want to visit.  “I want medicine to change. I want energy to change,” he tells us. “I want everything to change.” This is how he intends to do that.

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