Earlier this week, I wrote Innovation: A Heaping Helping of Hype and Hindrance?, which was an in-depth look at innovation for businesses. This morning, I come across another great illustration of creating successful innovation systems. In Steven Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, he writes about the need for existing platforms that allow innovation to be built upon them:
“Innovation thrives in discarded places. Emergent platforms derive much of their creativity from the inventive and economical reuse of existing resources, and, as any urbanite will tell you, the most expensive resource in a big city is real estate. ‘If you look about, you will see that only operations that are well established, high-turnover, standardized or heavily subsidized can afford, commonly, to carry the costs of new construction,’ Jane Jacobs wrote. ‘Chain stores, chain restaurants and banks go into new construction. But neighborhood bars, foreign restaurants and pawn shops go into older buildings. Supermarkets and shoe stores often go into new buildings; good bookstores and antique dealers seldom do.'”
Interesting. Innovation is built upon existing systems and infrastructures, not on what can be built from scratch or funded from the coffers of big business. Innovation cannot be bought. It can only come from a place that has an established history and is grounded in reality.
Are you trying to innovate in your company by reinventing the wheel or are you building upon established platforms and systems? The choice is up to you, of course, but if you are serious about innovation you might just need to examine your processes and your intentions for pursuing internal and external innovation.