Luck is certainly a significant characteristic of creativity and innovation. Innovation requires that the inventor(s):
- Be in the right place at the right time. Inventor Thomas Edison filed over 1,000 patents during his career. He invented the electric light bulb, electric power stations, movie cameras, and more. One of the strongest reasons he was able to do all and any of those things was that he actively sought to put himself into the right place, at the right time, and with the right people.
- Be conscious of the potentials of the ideas available to them. British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee imagined the need for a worldwide internet network at CERN). When American businessman Ray Kroc visited the McDonald brothers at hamburger shack in San Bernardino to sell milkshake machines, Ray became convinced that the setup of this small chain had the potential to explode across the nation.
- Then act on them. Orville and Wilbur Wright put in countless hours to successfully execute their ideas of inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered, and sustained heavier-than-air flight in the history of humankind.
13 Ways to Get Lucky in Innovation
Innovation is a tough game, and luck is a big help. However, you need not wait for unexpected opportunities. Try the following strategies for improving your luck—and winning the innovation game.
- Try it. Cut baloney and get on with something.
- Ready-Pain-Fire. Instead of Ready-Aim-Aim-Aim…
- Read odd stuff. Look everywhere for ideas.
- Hire odd people. Boring folks have boring ideas.
- Ask dumb questions. Somebody once asked why all computer commands come from keyboards. Result: the invention of the computer mouse as a peripheral.
- Pursue failure—the bigger the better. Failure is success’s only launching pad.
- Listen to everyone. Ideas come from everywhere.
- Spend 50% of your time with outsiders. And spend 50% of your outsider time with wacko outsiders.
- Spread confusion in your wake. Keep people off balance so there are ruts don’t get any deeper than they already are.
- Roll up your sleeves, take off your shoes, and get out of your office. Then get rid of your office. (When was the last time something creative happened there?)
- Give out “Culture Scud Awards.” Your best friend is a person who attacks corporate culture head-on. Wish her well.
- Avoid moderation in all things. According to Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, “anything worth doing is worth doing to excess.”
- Plant a thousand seeds in hopes that a few will flourish into blossoming trees. Pursue investments that are going to take a long time to pay back—and you can’t know beforehand how successful they’ll be.
For more on the role of luck in innovation, read ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ by Steven Johnson. Steven’s book centers around the idea that innovation comes about when ideas from different people interact with each other. The most inventive organizations will create an environment where diverse ideas are free to emerge, and connect, in unexpected ways in a matter of serendipitous connections where people, environments and ideas meet. ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ is full of with enthralling anecdotes from the history of entrepreneurship and scientific invention.