The Crux of Innovation

Innovation, we all hear about it but what does it really mean? Sure there are huge amounts of literature about it all over the internet. Creating new needs, associational thinking, making things simpler and so forth. Most of them just spout the what and how but not the why. Why do people spend their limited time of their lives to innovate? What is the core of motivation? Business needs, the need to make money and what not are all just icing to the cake, What is the cake or the crux if you will.

I tend to look at things from a more primal perspective so to me, it is these few things:

  1. Display mastery of one’s craft
  2. I can push beyond mediocrity
  3. I can match up to the greats in my own way
  4. Serve an ideal of better times ahead
  5. I can make a difference
  6. I can make things easier

Display Mastery of One’s Craft

People, especially with highly specialized skills such as engineering, music, medicine, science etc. are in essence, craftsmen/artisans. Their skills, when applied correctly, is a work of art. That is why great achievements in engineering and science are termed “State of the Art”. Notice the word “Art” there and not terms that are more closely related to the aforementioned fields.

Artisans, especially good ones have a need to be acknowledged for the high quality of their work. One way of doing that is one surpassing others whom they deem mediocre or whom they define are the greats either knowingly or unknowingly. That is why artisans will either consciously or unconsciously try to surpass the master.

Invention is naturally the ultimate way of doing so. Invention is innately radical and the ultimate expression of one’s mastery. However, in general, things are usually evolutionary and not revolutionary. That is why innovation happens more than invention. Innovation is evolutionary invention. It can be done safely, more effectively and much more achievable than straight-up invention as a baseline is already there.

In terms of mastery, innovation is way for a person to pay homage to those whom they deem great. It is an expression that they can match or surpass the greats that preceded them in their own way. At its core however, it is a way to escape the drudgery of mediocrity, a way to show that they actually greater than how they feel they are perceived. Hang on to the last statement and leave it rattling in your skull as it is a segue to the next point.

Serve an Ideal of Better Times Ahead

Some say necessity is the mother of innovation. However, I challenge that and say that the ideals of humanity is the mother of innovation. What is the ideal you may ask? Well it is the notion that we are above other living creatures and we, with our intellect will make our lives better than the others who inhabit this planet.

Humans are nothing more than highly evolved primates with sentience and cognitive abilities that surpass our cousins. We will have no problems living off the land like they do and have all we need to live. However, we instead built civilizations, defied gravity and other achievements that other living beings have not done. There is no biological imperative to do so, yet we still do it. Humanity as a species thinks outside the box all the time to fulfill our egos. Our egos that make us defiant of our limitations and constantly trying to prove that we are greater than the other species that inhabit our planet.

We even invented needs because we have an innate need to live better, to be lazier, to show nature that we are able to transcend our limitations. We invented medicine to cure our ailments, instead of letting evolution take it out of our genes. We tamed animals to help us travel faster and, not to be outdone, we invented vehicles that now far surpass anything nature has in terms of mobility.

Humans, as a species have this need to make a difference, not only to fulfill our collective egos but for us to feel that we have made difference. All of us love stories of people who overcome their limitations, beating insurmountable odds and changing the status quo. Deep inside us we have this need to prove ourselves which is why many cultures have a right of passage/coming of age ritual, ranging from hunting dangerous prey to graduating from educational institutions. Innovation I would argue is in our nature. Our entire existence is a monument to our ability to invent and innovate.

The innovator is a person whose need to prove themselves have been taken to the next level where they believe that they can make a difference. The difference being making things easier for us as we have done countless times, like the invention medicine because we are too impatient to let evolution do its work because we believe we can do faster and in turn, make our lives better. We are all innovators at heart, question is, are we willing to take it to the next level or, as humans as a rule are lazy, be content with letting others do the work for them and riding on their coattails.

Those are my thoughts on innovation. The impetus was some conversations and talks I heard regarding innovation but to me, I could not really connect to it. This unease that I was unable to connect to all that talk of innovation made me reflect and come up with this.