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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Creativity, Invention, Innovation? We Are All in it Together!

There is nothing new under the sun

From time to time politicians decide that they need to be up there and trendy so they decide to latch on to the need for innovation.

Innovation, creativity, development all imply change but considered change and preferably for the better.

I came across a very interesting book recently that now resides on my Kindle and which explodes the myth that creativity and innovation are the province of geniuses.

It's called How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton (from Amazon) and every leader in business should read it.

Ashton left school at 15 with one useless O-level and through his determination to be successful has achieved great things in business.

Additionally he is working with academics at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) - a late developer perhaps and one with a massage to give.

The very word creativity which was coined only in 1926 is derived from the word create and it generally implies something emerging ex nihilo meaning out of nothing.

Science has shown that the universe is expanding so if we calculate backwards at the same but reversed rate then we should arrive at the starting point of the Universe and the Big Bang theory.

All well and good but what was there before the Big Bang?  Professor Stephen Hawking says, somewhat dismissively, that asking that question is like asking what is north of the North Pole.

An interesting philosophical concept maybe but doesn't get us anywhere.

The facts seem to be that the Universe was created ex nihilo and crucially, is the only example as such in all the 13.4 billion years of its existence.

On that premise then the word creativity cannot apply to what we do. Everything that we achieve is based on or derived from something already in existence.

Kevin Ashton makes the point that Homo Sapiens Sapiens 150,000 years ago developed simple tools from easily found materials in order to feed themselves and stay alive.

Oddly there was apparently no development of these tools until around 50,000 years ago when noticeable changes started to appear.


One of our ancestors thought that these tools could be made more efficiently and to greater purpose.  Perhaps this was the birth of innovation.

Please note: this change was not derived from nothing. It was developed from existing knowledge and skill with the input, this time, of conscious thought.

Fast forward to today. Can you think of any invention, innovation that has been derived ex nihilo without any input from existing knowledge?

In truth, every innovative idea, any new and even revolutionary idea is born out of existing knowledge and skill.

In fact, great innovation is the offspring of a need; the innate need to improve, change and develop and is usually derived from a problem that has to be solved.

If we look at some of the inventions that have changed our lives such as the automobile, the railways, modern shipping and manned flight, they all stem from these inventors wanting to improve and develop existing forms of transport.

Few of the great inventors would class themselves as geniuses; indeed most of them were working people with a thirst to change and improve the way they lived.

In short, everyone has inbuilt innovative skills and abilities. There is no need to wait for the next passing genius in order to accomplish positive change.

Leaders in business and industry know this instinctively. The question is, do they exploit effectively this inborn ability to be innovative?

It is often said of this country that we have great innovative ideas that are taken up and developed in other countries.

I am not sure whether this is still the case or is it just out normal self-effacing view of life.

As an example look at the invention and now the development of Graphene, the one atom thick sheets of graphite that is begging to revolutionise many manufactured items and which was invented and now is being developed here in Manchester.

Leaders need to understand the vast pool of existing talent in their workforce and to set up initiatives to develop and exploit the resulting opportunities.

We don't need to be a genius; Thomas Edison said that invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

He also said:

         "There is a better way to do it.  Find it!" 


Innovation results from hard and dedicated work but to a greater or lesser extent the talent is inbuilt in all of us.

Download my book"Leading to Success" from Amazon Kindle
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