“In times of technology disruption and fast-paced obsolescence of products, services and ideas, it is not surprising that the word ‘innovation’ has conquered an almost mandatory presence in the individuals and organisation’s vocabularies. Together with the vast spread of this concept – as well as its misunderstanding – innovation books, workshops and tools are appearing all the time and everywhere.
In that context, I was recently invited to host an innovation course at LAJE, a Brazilian learning space oriented to business innovation which combines Rio’s laidbackness and charm with interesting people and programming.
Initially, I was wondering how I would address such a broad and relevant topic to a heterogeneous crowd of entrepreneurs, freelancers and executives, including designers and journalists, ranging from fashion to the oil & gas industry.
I was also questioning how could I hold the full attention of the participants during our weekly 3 hour gathering, having the epic challenge of competing with the countless distractions offered by gadgets as well as the “new normal” (which I find annoying, by the way…): ongoing instantaneous and fragmented communication which leads to a massive loss of live connection and quality presence. Basically, I assumed that it would be quite a hike to engage people to disconnect to reconnect.
Since recognising what’s around, above and within is the starting point of change as well as any creative process, my main action would be actually very simple: offering time and space for deep and provocative discussions and reflections that could hopefully become catalysts for thinking ‘upside down’ and eventually reaching one’s highest future potential.
After four intense weeks of battling for quality attention as well as fostering open, meaningful and often tough dialogues, I was able to finally reach some conclusions on innovation. So here is my main learning so far:
1. Innovation is a fancy way to translate personal and/or business survival instinct since new paradigms and solutions hardly emerge from serene times.
2. Ambiguity and uncertainty are increasing with exponential change brought by technology, and sticking to tools and post-its can be a nice tranquilliser for companies and professionals facing an urgent calling to shift and overcome crisis
3. Speaking of it, post-its and innovation tools are just means, and probably overrated ones.
4. Attending an innovation course doesn’t guarantee that one will innovate in the same way that watching someone working out won’t make anyone fitter. Actually this is a very predictable non-innovative thing to do at the moment, since “marshmallow workshops” usually don’t influence much Monday mornings’ behaviours
5. Instead of seeking how to innovate, one should ask why and even if they should innovate
6. Disruption has its limits. As a wise German expression says: “At the end of the day, everybody is cooking with water.”
7. Busyness, hyper-connectiveness and conventional and obsessive networking are innovation blockages, which suppresses guts.
Last but not least, here is my favourite takeaway: intellectual conformity can only be fought with authenticity.
And the only thing no one can copy is oneself. So it’s vital to work hard to preserve it.