The Painful Truth About Innovation


It’s so refreshing to talk to people who are passionate about Innovation and I love it that now more than ever, companies are making room for it, not only in titles, but also in budgets and initiatives to drive it and sustain it, making it a part of the culture. Who doesn’t want to be innovative? It has become quite the buzz word and somehow we’re losing it’s true meaning. 

Problem is everyone wants it, but rarely are people willing to do what it takes to get there. People throw the word around loosely these days like it’s just another attribute they need to use in their company description or profile with little understanding of what it really means. Innovation doesn’t come easy, and it requires razor focus on creating an environment with all the right elements for innovation to breed. Creating an innovative environment means you have to be willing to experiment and over time scale what’s working. Fail, rinse, repeat.

At the core of the art of improvisation is a methodology that supports innovation and all the behaviors associated with it. Improvisation is creating something out of nothing (using only what you have in the moment) with a partner, and with no script. The art form does not work without tapping into all the attributes that, “Surprise….” lead to innovation. The history of the buzzword tells us that innovation was almost shameful when it first originated and moved into a more admirable light as it became associated with inventing. All that to say again, innovation is not easy, it requires a little bit of “throwing caution into the wind” and failing and taking big risks. The good news is that through the practice of improvising and all that one must master to do it proficiently, innovative mind sets can be fostered over time.

Agility, the ability to adapt, letting ideas gestate and interact, creativity, collaboration and alas, failure must be present in order for innovation to peer it’s lovely head. When you take all of these concepts and let them flow in a safe, productive and yes experimental, environment you can begin to see the fruits of your risk paying off.

Many work environments today don’t allow for ideas to interact and breathe, nor do they give people time to reflect. There is no white space. Interaction is low or non-existent. Moving to an innovative culture requires a safe and open place encouraging diverse ideas to dance, for risks to be taken and mistakes all happening in tandem. And while this might sound crazy or scary, it’s the real deal when it comes to innovation. It’s not just a word to throw around loosely. This is not necessarily a rant, but definitely becoming a little sore spot. Let’s put innovation in the light it deserves. It’s uncomfortable, scary, hard and sometimes painfully slow, but SO WORTH IT. The clients we are working with who are taking innovation seriously are doing things very different from their competitors and making big strides to “not do what they’ve always done.” It is the only way.

If you really want to be innovative, you better get ready to shake it up with no apologies. Improvisation just happens to be my preferred resource for cultivating more innovative behaviors. Give em a space and let them create, invent and innovate and that’s what it’s all about!

Kristy West is the Founder of BraveSpace an Applied Improv Facilitator and Speaker in Atlanta, GA.

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