The popular story told today about innovation stars a genius (and the college roommate) who comes up with the next big idea. They work on it until it’s perfect–in their garage, of course–and then launch their great idea to the world, achieving success.
But the real story of innovation isn’t quite so simple. Recently, I got to spend some time with Frans Johanson, author of The Medici Effect and The Click Moment. Here’s what I learned from him about innovation:
Goals get you moving in a particular direction efficiently. They’re great for getting you to take action. So it’s really good to have an idea, set a goal, and get started.
But goals should be held lightly. Many of the best innovations emerged as surprises on the way to somewhere else. You have to be both curious enough and humble enough to leave the strategic path you mapped out. You have to be willing to pivot.
Successful innovators don’t have one big idea. They initiate far more projects than others. Many of those ideas don’t go anywhere. But they learn a lot and keep trying things. Over time, a few of their ideas take off.
They key to being able to activate lots of ideas is to take the smallest executable step possible. Don’t spend all your resources reaching for your first big idea. Take the smallest executable step that allows you to test your idea. Pause and learn. Then decide what your next step should be.
One small step at a time, learning at every single step, changing your idea many times…you too can be like the great innovators of our time. And, like them, maybe one of your ideas will take off!