Cookie cutter innovation
- Monday, February 22nd, 2016
In today’s day and age, you hear so many of the same ideas being regurgitated time and time again.
This recurring problem is what I call “cookie cutter innovation”.
What is cookie cutter innovation? Basically cookie cutter innovation is the by product of all our experiences, influences and education combined. Most people go to pre school, junior school, high school and university in a logical manner and study nearly the exact same subjects as everyone else. We complete a similar degree to our fellow students and have very similar experiences on which to shape their innovations on. We come up with the same ideas of which they derive from the same experiences.
This is why traditional education can be so limiting to true innovation vs the more empowering and natural act of going on a self directed apprenticeship.
Your ability to innovative is shaped on the experiences that you could draw on in your life.
Annalie Killian, Founder of Amplify – stated in her wonderful TEDx speech – available here or below – that “people’s ability to solve problems and think things through, was directly correlated to the range of diverse experience that they had in their memory to draw upon.”
This depletion of innovative capabilities is made worse by the departmentalisation of subjects, the inability for students to understand why they are learning what they are learning, not having the confidence to be able to apply the learnt knowledge and the mere fact that we’re taught from an early age that there is typically only one right answer to any given question.
It is why so many billionaires quit university early and went onto to undertake self directed apprenticeships in their chosen businesses.
I believe that incremental learning and the gradual application of learning is the only true way to learn, innovate and have the confidence to effectively apply such knowledge.
The problem is so prevalent, that in line with this, the Finnish schooling system went through massive reform of their syllabus and based on the new and improved method of learning and applied knowledge.
When one doesn’t have the ability to see how things interconnect and interrelate, then one’s ability to innovate is further diminished.
It is this passion to desire to understand how things work, and how things connect that keep me passionately fuelled about chasing my dreams. Sir Ken Robinson – world expert in creativity, innovation, and human resources in education and business – perfectly illustrates this diminished divergent thinking ability as a student goes through the various stages of education.
I once attended an innovation lecture during my MBA, where the lecturer asked the audience whether or not we were living in innovative times. Every student became really excited and started waving their iPhones around. The lecturer showed a graph of innovation and how it largely slumped over the past 30 years.
I personally believe there is a definitive inverse correlation between comfort and innovation.
The Head of Intel Capital came out to speak at a CapitalPitch event recently and stated that “Australians already have the lifestyles that American Billionaires aspire to have”. The problem herein lies that the desire for innovation or the lack of innovation is something that sits deeply at a cultural level. If we already have such an amazing comfortable lifestyles, then what are we working towards?
“A slave the comfort zone robs ambition.”
In Australia, we have a steady welfare system and the lowest we can fall is the Medicare safety net, we have a system designed for comfort and the desire to go out and innovative is depleted as such. If you travel to a country like China, India, Indonesia or any other country with extreme poverty, you’ll see that the desire to innovate and create value is very high.
“It’s basically do (innovate) or die.”
In the USA, I read on numerous occasions that over 50m people live on less than a dollar per day. The culture around entrepreneurialism and innovation is significantly more prominent.
It is further clear to me, that in times of chaos and war, you will almost always see a peak in innovation as new technologies are developed with the intent of saving lives. As the old saying goes, “necessity is the mother of all invention”. And when it is necessary to preserve life, there is a greater need to innovate.
It is why there was an innovation peak in the early 1900’s and partially why countries like Israel are so entrepreneurial and innovative today.
I personally grew up in a highly chaotic environment and always had a very strong desire to create, innovate and invent. The earliest forms of this were innovating to avoid punishment or the pain of punishment.
I believe that true innovation happens when you challenge absolutely everything. By challenge everything I mean challenging;
- The status quo,
- Why you do what you do.
The further you push back on the status quo, the greater your ability to innovate as well.
The true innovative magic happens at the bridge between this incremental learning, curiosity and the application of this knowledge.
Unfortunately with Cookie Cutter Innovation, we’ll always be limited by the shapes that we’ll be able to create. In order to break free from this, we really got to branch out and create our own path moving forward.
In the future, I am keen to explore how structure, frameworks, systems and procedures have their impact on the creativity and innovation process. I welcome and thoughts and feedback on this.
Image source – Doug Waldron – Cookie Cutter – https://www.flickr.com/photos/dougww/