Towards a metaphor for innovation

Being in a position where I’m fortunate enough to work with students who are interested in studying the subject of innovation; metaphors are used to shape our understanding of how new ideas come into being and are then allowed to develop into fully developed real-world outcomes. One such metaphor is the role of the architect in shaping our physical environment. The architect, client, designer, builder, designer, financier, etc are all part of a complex constellation of value creation.

Some thoughts on the process of creativity that results in real world outcomes, as seen by an architect:
1. We all live in a setting that is determined by crowds and social structures.
2. We have the ability to either accept this setting or challenge it.
3. Our fit with this environment is determined by how our views are adopted.
4. There is always a sense of permanency once we have decided to pursue a certain course of action.
5. It is cumbersome to change our thoughts once we spent time formulating our reasoning.
6. To change the physical manifestation of our thoughts are time consuming and ego-trapped.
7. Moving into a new world or a new way of going things requires a new setting or paradigm to develop.

Look at these key reasoning areas from some architectural greats some 80- years ago:
Adolf Loos wrote “Ornament and Crime” in 1908 outlining that we should remove ornaments from everyday life like buildings, as it will hasten the demise of the design that was made permanent.
In “Theory and Design in the First Machine Age”, 1936, Reyner Banham reasons that functionism has rules and patterns that guide us as we moved into the era of modernism.
“Towards a New Architecture” by Le Corbusier in 1922, focuses on the understanding of basics that allow for flexible and agile change of all non-structural elements.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe spent his life changing the world’s view of how architecture and technology live together in harmony where most forms of excessive ornamentation is removed for functional design.

As we moved from the eras of mystical reasoning to science and pragmatic thinking, our focus of how we live as humans is shifting towards a far more integrated existence. We woke up one day realizing that our actions are far more impactful than we thought, and that our understanding of mystical behaviors have caused us much pain. Believing in individual value and group well being, got us to think about the basics of how a new world would operate. It is almost like we are going through a human reasoning evolution as what happened in the 1920-1950’s. A new form of pragmistism is emerging that allow crowds and individuals to co-exist in diverse opinion.

Humans express themselves through the physical outcomes of their thinking, as we have seen in the changes in architectural styles over the years. Furthermore, our access to technologies shape our minds as to the possibilities of creation in the realm of “what’s possible today”. We live in built up urbanized areas, malls, social gathering areas, crowds watching great acts of arts (like music), etc more than ever before. The integrated world of technology and human behavior is allowing us to socialize more efficiently than ever before as we live close together. And all this in light of our self destruction of the world, global population growth, and religious wars. Even crowd oriented corrections like the financial crises will shape our minds in new ways as to the “possibilities of creation and correction”.

Innovation is entering an era where the strict rules and decorative processes and procedures of past are all under scrutiny. A more integrative and social approach is emerging where we need the individuals in our constellation to perform at their best. Even Open Innovation is developed on the platform of the past; taking an old construct and evolving it. Is this good enough for this era? The new rules of change will force you to integrate the creative genius of all these people in ways frowned upon in eras gone by. Our ability to create new ideas, evaluate and rate those in light of the setting, collaborate on the development and outcomes of those ideas, and finally the ability to find valuable ideas; all will determine our success in achieving success in a new world.