Innovators Don't Have To Be a Rare Breed

Can one  passionate plea from the CEO to “Think outside of the box” turn an entire organisation of people into innovators?

The people that have the ability to join dots in a way that others don't or haven't before? That don’t accept the status quo or seek rules to follow? That look at problems with a fresh and clear view?

There are a few famous innovators that we read about and revere that possess these traits.  But the examples are so few that businesses are seemingly clamouring for talent that is limited to 1% of the population.

Are there really only a handful of innovators in the world? Of course not. While some people are natural innovators, there are billions of closet innovators, unsung innovators, and quiet innovators.

They’re more commonly referred to as misfits.

For the most part, our society judges people that see things differently, as outcasts. In the rare cases that they transcend societal biases through sheer determination and luck, do we recognise their value (Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, James Dyson, Richard Branson...).

Does that mean that all hope for widespread innovation is lost?

No. It means we need to change the way we think about people. We need to stop rewarding sameness and standardization and embrace differences. We need to throw out the notion of ‘normal’ as a way to easily measure one's place in the world.

Everyone has the ability to escape the shackles of conformity, thinking like the masses and accepting what they’re told as the final word.

You need to embrace your inner misfit. That means unknowing many of the things you know. Taking risks that you wouldn’t normally take, asking 'why?', 'why not?', and 'what if?' a whole lot more - and stop aspiring to normality.

After over a century of preparing a workforce for a life of compliance, asking them to challenge and question may not happen overnight.

But it can happen.

While the technology savvy and naturally open-minded have a head start, anyone can participate in the age of innovation.

Those who don't believe it, should consider this:

In 1968, Dr George Land performed a study to test 1600 children for creative thought. He gave the students eight tests on divergent thinking.

This was a longitudinal study conducted over 10 years, tracking the children from ages of 5 through to 15.

At age five: 98% were divergent thinkers. (at Genius Level)

At age ten: 30% of those same children were still divergent thinkers.

By age fifteen only 12% were.

Performing the same test on 200 000 adults 2% were divergent thinkers.

The vast majority of us were creative geniuses at the age of five.

The whole notion that some of us are creative and some of us aren’t is nonsense.

As humans we're built to be creative. To find our way out of tough situations. Life and death. Survival. Creativity is at the core of our race.

We've been taught to believe we’re not creative. We've been taught to aspire to non-creative pursuits. Which marks matter more on the report card? Science or Art? History or Dance? Math or Philosophy? Physics or Phys. Ed.?

Nourishing our rational and emotional minds is as important as caring for our physical bodies. But with the emphasis placed on the rational mind in the last 100+ years we tend to believe that those ‘creative types’ have a gift that only few are born with.

Indeed it is a gift - but everyone is born with it.

It’s just a matter of doing something about it: clear away the clutter, question what you've been taught and believe in your own ability to solve problems.