Getting better at innovation

This post would have been “Leonardo da Vinci – Artist and Engineer – Part 3”. But the real heart of this post is how to prepare for (and get better at) innovation. One of Leonardo’s strengths was his curiosity . He never stopped wondering “why?”. He also brought his “creative” side and his “practical” side together to find new ways of looking at a problem I believe that anyone can be an innovator. In fact, we all are innovators. .

In addition to curiosity and his creative/practical perspectives, Leonardo brought one more, very important, element to his work: fundamentals. Leonardo studied for weeks, even months, exploring the key principles that would affect his inventions. The results speak for themselves.

Leonardo understood the key practical principles

Leonardo da Vinci approached engineering more comprehensively than many of his contemporaries when they designed solutions for specific applications. Leonardo solved the immediate engineering problem, but he went beyond the specific application and conducted systematic studies of the fundamental characteristics of the associated design “building blocks” (e.g. gears, screws, and levers). As a result he, he gained a deep understanding of both theoretical and practical engineering principles that enabled him to surpass many of his peers. Five hundred years later, Leonardo still offers a compelling role model for modern engineers and a challenge to modern academia.

Understand the Basics – the Fundamentals of your work

So, what are the fundamentals that you understand about your work? Is there more that you should know? You already have ideas for how things could be improved… and your ability to innovate increases with your understanding of the foundational principles for your work – whether you are a florist, a mechanical engineer or a senior accountant. We all have the ability to innovate, to “create something better”. But the more we understand of “how things work”, the more successful we can be at identifying innovative new ways of doing things.

Learn – so that you can “create something better”

I’d encourage you to learn (and continue learning) the fundamentals of your discipline… so that You can innovate more effectively.

Best of luck!

– Dave Ranson

Innovation is YOU creating something better

This post started out to be “Leonardo da Vinci – Artist and Engineer – Part 2”. But that’s NOT what this post is about. Leonardo WAS an incredible artist and an inventor… but this post isn’t really about him. It’s about innovation. I believe that anyone can be an innovator. In fact, we all are innovators. We take what we know and we figure out how to do things differently in order to make things work “better” for ourselves and those around us…

Anyone can be an innovator

Steve Jobs and Apple “got it right” for over a decade because they combined technology, “cool design”, and an uncanny understanding of new markets – e.g. iPod, iPhone, iPad. They weren’t the first to “get it right”, though. Lee Iacocca and Ford got it right with the Ford Mustang in the 1960’s… and long before Steve Jobs or Lee Iacocca, Leonardo da Vinci was combining his art and his “inner scientist” to become one of the most famous innovators of all time.

Leonardo had an impressive understanding of the fundamentals of physics and engineering – the theoretical and the practical – that set him apart from most of the inventors and engineers of his day. He “got it”… and that allowed him to see solutions that none of his peers ever considered.

However, Leonardo brought another, very powerful understanding to his work: aesthetic sensibility. He was an artist, and he brought that appreciation of beauty and symmetry to his scientific pursuits in a way that set him apart from his peers. His designs addressed the theoretical and the practical in a way that was elegant, even beautiful. We have rarely, if ever, seen the same synthesis of theoretical, practical, and aesthetic excellence in the last 500+ years.

What about you? You understand the “practical” side of the things you do everyday. What’s stopping you from using that knowledge and your creative side, your “inner artist”, to come up with a better way to do your job? My favorite definition of innovation is “creating something better”. Can you picture “something better” in the way you work (at home or in the office)?

Innovation is “creating something better”

Today, if you stopped to think about what you do and how it gets done, could you think of a small (or big) way to improve that? Then why not? Sometime today, I’d encourage you to take just 15 minutes to think about a new or different way of working – something that could “create something better” for you and those you encounter everyday. Write down all of your ideas, no matter how “crazy” they seem at the time – and stop after 15 minutes. Then, sleep on it. Don’t do anything with it today. Tomorrow, take out the list and look for an idea, or a combination of those ideas, that you could try in the next few weeks.

I’d love to hear how it goes…  If you’ll comment on how your “innovation” sessions went, we’ll explore what worked for you and what didn’t. Let’s plan to meet again right here in a few weeks.

– Dave Ranson