We talk a lot about innovation. But what does it take to come up with an innovative idea?
Imagine that knowledge is like the contents of a pantry, where a bit of knowledge is represented by an ingredient in your kitchen. If we think about knowledge like this, we can view it more strategically. For instance, we can consider knowledge in terms of quantity and categories. This is important because if we want to create innovative ideas, we need to consider what we are using to come up with those ideas. It’s diffcult to create an enjoyable and nutritious meal with a sparse pantry, or one that’s full of only one type of ingredient. However, when you have a pantry full of many types of ingredients, you’re more likely to succeed in creating a meal.
Innovative ideas are the same way. Knowledge is necessary to create innovative ideas, and when the knowledge available is limited in either quantity or scope, the possibility for innovating is also limited.
There is more to developing innovative ideas than just knowledge. Experience plays an important role, too. Let’s say you have a fully stocked kitchen, but you’ve never cooked before. Experience can help connect the dots. If you have cooked before, you can determine what you can create with the ingredients that you have, just like with innovative ideas. If you have more experience, you can determine what can be done with the knowledge available to you or your team.
Again, diversity plays an important role here. Diversity plays a larger role overall than we sometimes give it credit for. There are countless categories of experiences to be an expert in, but the breakthrough moments come when these different kinds of experiences come together to create something entirely new.
There’s another important aspect to creating innovative ideas. Fearlessness. A full and diverse pantry combined with experience is still limited by one thing: fear of the unknown. Experience tells us how connections have been made in the past; innovation happens when connections come together for the first time. We have to be fearless enough to test and discover new things.
To create innovative ideas, you need to have everything in place — knowledge, experience and diversity — and then you need fearlessness to bring it all together. And that is the recipe for innovation.