Oh, God. Innovation? Really?

This morning I had to give a few-minute spiel to my entire company about innovation. Sigh all you want. Despite the fact that we’ve been conditioned to stop listening anytime anyone in khakis starts talking about things like this, there are people out there (and particularly people in my company) who need to hear that it’s okay to try new things.

None of what I said was particularly ::cough!:: innovative or even terribly interesting. You can find a trillion other things that a trillion others have said better about innovation. But! But, all day long I’ve received (politically unnecessary) compliments about how inspiring it was to hear. And so I guess it’s not that tired and worn out after all.

Unfortunately, the meat of what I spoke about were examples that I shouldn’t publish here, but here’s the gist of what I said:

Talking about change can be paralyzing. It seems big. Big is scary. One of the things I think it’s important to remember, and that we try to live every day in [my department] is that innovation doesn’t necessarily have to involve earth-shattering, business-redefining ideas and changes. All of us—you, me—are all coming up with new ideas all the time. We don’t think that coming up with a better way to filter your email or a better way to organize your department’s projects is “innovative,” but they are, and we do things like that every day.

There’s nothing magical about creativity, or about coming up with new ideas. It simply means giving yourself some freedom to try things that you wouldn’t have necessarily tried before, but that could still get you to your desired results. It also means giving yourself permission to occasionally fail for the benefit of the greater good.

Let me give you an example. [redacted]

Innovation doesn’t have to be intimidating. Nor does it have to be a huge product reformulation to be a success. It just means trying harder to try new things to reach our common goals. Not all new ideas will work. But some will, and we’ll all be better for trying.