Fostering Innovative Ideas

By Lauren Paunescu

We talk a lot about innovation. But what does it take to come up with innovative ideas?

Imagine that knowledge is like the contents of a pantry, where a bit of knowledge is represented by an ingredient in your kitchen. We can consider knowledge in terms of quantity and categories. If we want to create innovative ideas, we need to consider what we are using to come up with those ideas. It’s difficult 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 for innovation, 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 you have, just like with generating 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 part 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.


woman in blue clean suit

Life at Northrop Grumman: Recent Stories

Shape your career journey with diverse roles and experiences that expand your expertise, feed your curiosity, and fuel your passion.

A Northrop Grumman employee inspects the James Webb Space Telescope Sunshield.

Life at Northrop Grumman: Archived Stories

It takes every one of us to make the impossible a reality. See what life is like at Northrop Grumman.