There’s no telling where your next idea will come from. One of the many reasons I love to share quotes is that they often inspire us or cause us to think differently. Here are some quotes about innovation for the next time you need a spark.
“Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.” –Tom Freston
Often people think of culture as something that is like art, but you say that the “magic behind great culture is actually an elegantly simple science.” Tell us more about your research.
We all know that culture is important. We’ve felt it. Some cultures are filled with fear and stress, while others inspire creativity and enthusiasm. What has eluded us, however, is why. Our research provides an “elegantly simple” answer: culture is what tells your people why they should work, and why they work is what determines how well they work.
Here’s the kicker though: not all “whys” are created equal, and too often, cultures are designed to motivate using the destructive “whys.”
Our answer is not only elegantly simple, but also empirically powerful. Using our total motivation framework, we’ve measured the motives of over 20,000 people at more than 50 major institutions. We’ve observed an incredibly strong relationship between their culture and performance metrics like sales and customer experience. In one study, employees with high levels of total motivation (or ToMo for short) generated 38% more in revenues than their low ToMo counterparts.
Culture is an entirely quantifiable and engineerable asset—and the most important one. ToMo gives leaders the tools to unlock the highest levels of performance in their people and company.
“Why you work determines how well you work.” -Doshi/McGregor
What is total motivation? How does this drive performance?
Total motivation is simply the notion that why you work determines how well you work. The effectiveness of the “why” depends on its distance from the work. Let’s take a mid-level management consultant for example:
Play is when you work for enjoyment of the work itself. Play is the most powerful motivator: twice as potent as purpose and almost three times more than potential. Our fearless consultant might enjoy conceptual thinking and the process of breaking down big puzzles into digestible, actionable pieces.
Purpose is when the outcome or impact of the work is why you do it: maybe she values seeing how a new strategy improves a client’s well-being and helps his customers.
Potential is when the work enables a future outcome aligned to your personal goals: she might want to manage operations at a big company or a company of her own down the line, and this job will help her achieve that.
“Culture can’t be managed by chance.” -Doshi/McGregor
63 Innovation Nuggets (for aspiring innovators) is a practical guide to boosting your innovation. George Barbee developed these nuggets during the span of his 45 year career as an entrepreneur and corporate leader. For the last 15 years, George has taught at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
I recently spoke with George about his many decades of teaching and living the subject of innovation.
“An innovative network can change the culture of an organization.” -George Barbee
George, I have heard you say, “Yes, Steve Jobs is a genius, but what about innovating for the rest of us?” What exactly do you mean by that?
Steve was in fact a true genius of “Invention.” He could imagine what people needed and wanted even before they realized it or could verbalize it themselves. He could see around corners into the future.
But I believe most of the rest of us way underestimate our ability to “innovate”—especially with focus on techniques and methods within our control to improve this skill. And yes, it is a skill and an art, not an innate ability or something we are necessarily born with. I’ve witnessed this in my business career and the last 15 years teaching at University of Virginia, and interestingly across 40 countries. It’s a major theme underlying the book.
“Invention” is part of the broader scope of “innovation.” In fact, only a slice.
For example, the rest of us can be gifted and train ourselves to “innovate” in new and different ways. Key to the word “innovation” is doing something in a “meaningfully new and different way.” This takes us well beyond just product invention, but “innovation” now incorporates anything that is new and meaningfully different.
In the book we talk about dozens of “nuggets” or little gems that provide insights as to how to innovate. It is, in fact, remarkably easy to develop these skills. Like exercising a good muscle, the more you use it and focus on it, the better it gets. It’s a form of building innovative confidence through practice.
It’s learnable. It’s teachable.
“Innovation is best led by vision.” -George Barbee
That’s a tough question. I started with over 140 nuggets and in an effort to winnow it down to 52 (one per week) I couldn’t bring myself to cut any more, so I went with 63. Not necessarily brilliant, but sincere.
So, a favorite? Well, not necessarily only one favorite but it’s a good place to start: Nugget #19: Observing as an Art. The power and concentration it takes to observe what is around us is quite challenging. As we say, put yourself in “receive mode.” Just take things in around you. Listen. Look. Smell. Maybe even feel and taste. We observe with all our senses. This is time out to THINK. The key is sensing. Thinking.
“Successful innovators have a keen sense of observation.” -George Barbee
We go on to encourage note taking. Practice alone or with a like-minded friend and confidant. Have some fun with the process.
We then go on to tell some stories about observing. Practical situations where innovation around us is often under our noses, but we haven’t taken the time out to appreciate it or document it. One example is ATM or teller lines at banks. It used to be that we would go up to one of three tellers or machines and pick one and hope for the best. Woe to the person picking the wrong line! The tendency was then to hop over to the faster moving line. Then came the great innovation in line management—the “I” formation, or lining up in a single line, with the front person going to the next available opening. Brilliant. It takes the early guesswork out of picking the right single line. Happier customers. True Innovation.
Innovation Tip: Start conversations with “imagine if…”
One of the most innovative people I have ever met is my friend Diana Gabaldon. Last year, her wildly popular Outlander novels became even more popular as the new television series was released. Whether you are reading her Outlander series or her Lord John novels, you will be hard pressed to categorize her writing. Most critics give up and classify her work with a list of descriptive words ranging from historical fiction and romance to mystery and adventure.
However you describe her novels, you may find it even more challenging to describe the author. Diana is equal parts scholar, writer and historian. Mix in a bit of archivist; stir in comic book writing, and the unique recipe begins to take shape.
When I first met Diana, I had not read any of her books. She captivated me by the way she told a story. How she went from college professor to best-selling author was a story I will never forget.
Here are a few lessons I learned from the impossible-to-describe creative force named Diana Gabaldon:
Lessons from A Creative Mind
1. Try….why not take a chance?
It seems that most people have an idea, think they should do something, and then push that dream into a drawer. They never really give it a go.
Years ago, Diana read comic books. She felt the writing quality was declining and that she could do it herself. Have you ever felt that way? You see something and think, “I can do better.” Most of us have. What sets Diana apart is that she didn’t stop there. She investigated. She found out who was in charge and then turned in a submission.
Years later, Diana would take a different chance. She thought that she would like to try writing a novel. That try, what she calls the novel she was writing for “practice,” became Outlander.
What idea have you had that you have left in that drawer? What could you do to give birth to something new?
2. Study…for the love of creating.
Long before her mega success as an author, Diana spent years as a university professor. She has a PhD in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology. She also holds degrees in marine biology and zoology. That type of academic success shows an underlying love of learning.
And it’s that same love of learning she uses in the meticulous research for her books. Her fiction books are known for their accuracy, and it is no wonder. Her personal library includes thousands of books. Her Arizona home alone contains over 1500 reference works on topics such as warfare techniques, poisons and history. Some of the topics are very specific, such as the art of passementarie (the knotted tassels on 18th century furnishings) or the 126 books on herbals. If you have been searching for Sam Johnson’s Dictionary (1755) or Captain Francis Grose’s A Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811), look no further.
Often people look for the shortcuts to success. You may hear that Diana decided to write a book and then found herself on the NYT list. The truth is that great public success is almost always the result of planting, tilling and working in private.