Eureka! It Really Takes Years of Hard Work. So goes the title of this New York Times article discussing the reality of innovation.
We want to believe, writer Janet Rae-Dupree says, “that creativity and innovation come in flashes of pure brilliance, with great thunderclaps and echoing ahas. Innovators and other creative types, we believe, stand apart from the crowd, wielding secrets and magical talents beyond the rest of us.”
The truth, she says? It’s not about creativity and it’s not about innovation (not sure I agree with that). It’s slow, it’s painstaking, it’s a process. “Just as an oyster wraps layer upon layer of nacre atop an offending piece of sand, ultimately yielding a pearl, innovation percolates within hard work over time.”
A 2007 book entitled The Myths of Innovation prompted this article. Author Scott Berkun, quoted in the NYT article, puts it this way: “To focus on the magic moments is to miss the point. The goal isn’t the magic moment: it’s the end result of a useful innovation.”
Everybody talks about those “aha moments.” And certainly, they exist. Sometimes, in a flash, we do come up with an implementable and relevant idea or innovation. After the moment or the flash of the great thought, though, comes the real work, logistics, trying, falling flat on your face, thinking some more and trying again.
After the moment of flash comes, in a word, the reality of innovation.
Author Berkun goes so far to say that epiphany = myth. Yes, epiphanies happen. All the time. But they won’t ever take the place of innovation, a very real and sometimes complicated process.