Innovation doesn't just happen, an innovation is the result of daring to live and work within a new paradigm. The qualities of innovators are not appreciated. Innovators prove hard to work with, they ask too many questions, they are too independent. Innovators disturb the status quo, they are capable of changing things. Many of our best innovators are among the unemployed, or working alone, under-resourced.
Innovation is a personal activity. Groups don't have ideas, people do. Other people can and must help, contact with like minded peers is essential and the support of a mentor can be vital. Innovation is not the result of 100,000 monkeys randomly typing. Innovation happens when one prepared person gets a vague insight and works on it to develop a workable proposal.
The commonly expressed call for brainstorming, creativity and out of the box thinking, serves to misdirect us from the real sources of innovation. The "box" is the essential filter that helps us to choose options that are worth doing. Innovation arises out of intense appreciation of a problem or an incongruity. Investigation leads to learning. Learning increases the size of the "box" the innovator can use. When a new concept reveals itself inside this larger "box" there is an understanding of the new process and how to use it.
It's critical that innovation occurs inside a bigger box. Such an innovation, can be explained, and taught to others. Such an innovation is more likely to be acceptable to the market.
The essential power-house of any community is what people do as volunteers. Every innovator begins as a volunteer. To make progress he/she must become an advocate, a team builder, a motivator and a finder of resources. Modern innovations are likely to be the work of a team. That team may at first be a group of volunteers. The ability to build and sustain that team is critical. The champions inability to talk to people about the idea is often a problem preventing progress. Talk creates enthusiasm; that encourages to join efforts and making progress. Formal status for the team can be developed later.
An essential question for an economy or a company is to find ways to develop many more independent continuous learners. New learning drives innovation. In a well developed organization ideas for small innovative improvements should be abundant and come from all employees. We believe that the essential, usually neglected skill is to teach a process of gathering information from your primary experience. Systematic data collection is a process that each of us should understand and engage in.