The Mystery of Corporate Innovation

As many know, working inside a corporation takes on a life and a personality of its own. Our corporate cultures, our co-workers, our leadership all combine to create a context -- a gestalt -- to which we are inherently linked.

Today, two watchwords that permeate the new paradigm of commerce and corporate life are innovation and scalability. Are those terms compatible? Does innovation have any concrete meaning to you, given the personality of your company? Are you encouraged to think freely? Or does the requirement of scalability and the risk imposed by the expectation of size limit the innovative activity of workers? Can we add creativity and ideas to our normal and daily routines?

Part of the mystery lies in the source. We know that innovation requires inspiration. Do we derive the innovative spirit from our co-workers or our leadership? For some of us that might be a challenge. So, therefore, in most cases we must search for our own sources of inspiration -- and that requires work in and of itself.

And do they always have to be big ideas? No. Big ideas almost always evolve from small ones -- ones that we as individuals can conceive and execute. Prototypical ideas are crucially important as they can provide the basis for continued, constructive modification as others catch hold and embark on the road to scalability.

So, does the primary responsibility for innovation lie with the corporate environment, or is it ultimately the responsibility of all of us as individuals? I believe it is the latter and here I'd like to make three points:

1. The basis for innovation is awareness. Continual awareness of our surroundings and the events and combinations around us can often provide inspiration for a work-related idea. Do not be afraid to make a large leap of logic when thinking metaphorically.

2. Re-create those circumstances that have triggered your creativity in the past. Re-read books and papers, revisit certain music or paintings or play games and puzzles. As we do so, we should contemplate their structure and artistry -- be inspired by the author, the composer, the artist, the designer. We should use whatever icons we possess to put us in a state of mind that is relaxed, but with heightened awareness.

3. Don't be afraid to let a sense of beauty inform our ideas. Elegant logical extensions -- and what is innovation but an extension of logic -- can be realized from re-configurations of existing structures or can organically present themselves fully formed. Most importantly, I think that which is beautiful in business can ultimately be scaled and implemented for economic good.

Innovation, I believe, is a trait inherent in all of us. All it takes is a quiet mind and a growing awareness that small can be beautiful -- and that which is beautiful can often be made to be big.