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Setting the conditions for successful Innovation

This blog is inspired by a book I have read three times, "The Innovators" by Walter Isaacson, that details Silicon Valley's history. This blog summarises the past learnings that remain relevant now and are likely to be into the future.

Encourage diversity of thought

Ada Lovelace was the daughter of the great English poet Byron who was a Luddite. Ada was well educated, challenged her father’s beliefs, and developed the first ‘software’ language.

Technology reduces costs and enhances capability

End of life technology presents an opportunity to move to the next generation of technology often at a reduced cost. ‘I sold my most valuable possession, but I knew because I worked at Hewlett Packard, I could buy the next model calculator the very next month for a lower price than I sold the older one for!’ - Steve Wozniak

Strive for greater diversity with flexibility

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard managed three shifts of workers (many with women) through flexible working patterns in the 1970s. They were given plenty of leeway for determining how to accomplish objectives as management hierarchies were flat.

Casual connections spark ideas

A famous technology company campus in North America has wide paths and long grass. People must take the path as they are unable to walk through the long grass. They then cross on the paths and casual chats happen.

Ideas must be combined with business skills

‘Intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.’ - Albert Einstein. Share those great ideas with different audiences so they evolve.

Be rational but decisive

‘Successful innovation leaders cannot allow strategic conversations to stop at the aspirational level. They must insist on drilling down to the next level of managerial choices that are necessary to gain the desired outcome.’ - Bill Fischer, IMD Professor.

Simply smart

The greatest creativity has come from those who have connected the arts and sciences. Steve Jobs believed that beauty mattered. True geniuses such as Kepler, Newton, Einstein, and Jobs had an instinct for simplicity. Divergence delays potential Sir Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, tinkered with various technologies that were not as successful as the www. The web was a platform for new ideas to occur, intersect with random notions and things then coalesced. Connect your experts Wikipedia, launched in 2001, is now the world’s online encyclopedia. People were initially concerned about the lack of experts; however, the crowd became the experts - sharing, critiquing and correcting knowledge. Structure creative collaboration The book concludes that innovation requires at least three things.

  1. A great idea

  2. The engineering talent to execute it

  3. Business savvy and the deal-making capability to turn it into a successful product.

The best innovators are communities who can link beauty to engineering, humanity to technology and poetry to processes. Visionaries must be partnered with those who can execute; a vision without execution is a mere hallucination.


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