The Innovation Enchantment Recipe


Today I attended the National Innovation Directors Meeting and spent most of my time avidly taking notes.  While it’s a worthy detour to share how the French postal service plans to innovate its way through our Internet Age, I wanted to focus on a recurring theme:  magic. 

Not the magic of trickery, but the magic of enchantment.   

Magic in the context of innovation, or even during a real-deal magic show, is the same; we are enchanted when we witness or experience something we didn’t before think possible.  Like . . .

  • Talking to someone who’s not in the same room (the initial enchantment of the telephone)
  • Flying in the air like a bird (think First Flight and Bleriot)
  • Using a device that’s simultaneously a cellphone, music player, Internet access and camera (yes, the iPhone, our most recent enchantment)
  • Turning your cereal box into a 3D game console (Nestlé Chocopic)

And we’re about the cross into new enchantment territory when it comes to, for example, innovations in medicine . . . crippled people who can walk thanks to exoskeletons, corrective sight surgery for infants born blind, etc. etc. 

But no matter how much we focus on process, strategy, measurement, anything touching so called ‘innovation systems’, the true place where innovation ‘happens’ (hmm, this makes me think of combustion theory) is . .  LIFE. 

Marc Giget said it best, “Le lieu d’innovation, c’est la vie,” where people physically intersect, live their lives, experiences and emotions. 

What the virtual world has to offer then, is life augmented.  A place you don’t call home but where you can be in communion with other beings, from all geolocations and expertise, to innovate where it’s otherwise impossible.  Let’s face it; key collaborators for the next scientific breakthrough probably don’t all go to the same grocery store. 

Yet while it’s certain that online tools help boost, or we could say, facilitate innovation, let’s not forget about our real lives. 

Let’s not forget to actually get together every now and then at  real conferences and talk with people face to face.

Let’s not forget the power of teambuilding, and speaking of which, emotional group experiences like white water rafting make for killer teambuilding outings. 

Because it’s at the conferences and while you’re paddling through the Level 4s that you truly connect with people.  Emotionally.  Experientially. Human to human.  This is where the sparks of magic often first ignite. 

Build your ‘innovation ecosystem’ online . . . AND, offline.  And while you’re at it, don’t forget to dream! 

I’ll leave you with two quotes from today’s meeting (although sorry, it was during the Q&A sessions and I cannot remember who said them):

“Innovation begins where standards end.”

 . . . and . . .

“We must keep the magic cauldron alive.”

Would love to hear your thoughts!