Where do you get your most innovative ideas?
How do you increase the rate of innovation in your company?
It's probably the most important question a CEO or entrepreneur can ask.
Today's blog (part 1 of 2) outlines some of the most powerful ideas I've learned for stimulating solutions to your problems.
Here are three strategies to increase the rate of novel idea generation in your company.
As Matt Ridley famously described in The Rational Optimist – it's important for "ideas to have sex."
This is how new ideas are made -- I merge your idea and my idea and it becomes something new and valuable.
As you might imagine, if new idea generation is a function of "idea interaction," then the rate of people interacting matters a lot.
For most of human history, human populations were spread out over vast distances and interaction was limited.
More recently, we've been moving into cities:
Intuitively enough, as the rate of urbanization (and the density of a group of people) increased, so too did the rate of invention – one study suggests that doubling a city's population drives a 15% increase in income, wealth and innovation.
This principle is equally applicable to your business. Here are a few ideas:
You've probably heard the phrase "Think outside the box" (a thousand times).
The truth is: to be really innovative, you need to start thinking in a really small box.
Let me explain.
When you give people a hard problem, and then give them unlimited resources to solve it, they typically take a conservative route… spending a lot of money and taking a lot of time in an effort to avoid failure. It's human nature.
However, when you ask them to deliver 10x performance, with severely limited resources (i.e. 1/10th the budget and 1/10th the time), it drives invention and innovation.
Typically, one of two results emerge:
This is effectively what I did with the Ansari XPRIZE. I put out a highly constrained challenge – just $10 million, for a 3-person spaceship flying twice to space within two weeks.
Musk did this with Tesla, creating an epic car company with no legacy, no unions, no old factories and no old approaches.
Key Takeaway: Create hyper-constraints on your team. Set a difficult goal driven by a powerful massively transformative purpose and incentivize them to try new ways of attacking the problems you want solved.
We have an age bias in most companies. We tend to give the oldest, most experienced people the hardest jobs and the most responsibilities.
But history tells us that if you want true innovation, give the hardest, craziest challenges to the youth (or at least youthfully minded) in your company.
Here's some backup for that claim…
At what age do you think most Nobel Laureates do their prize winning work? Not win their medal, but actually publish the research?
Turns out, it's in their mid to late twenties. A few examples, Nobel and otherwise, follow.
What do you think was the average age of the engineers who invented the Apollo program in the 1960's (designed the propulsion, guidance, etc.)?
It was about 27 years old.
Fast forward 30 - 40 years to the dot.com revolution… What was the average age of the innovators building the startups we know and love? Microsoft, Apple, Google, Paypal, Facebook, etc.
Again, they were in their 20's.
As Pearl S. Buck, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, said, "The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible… and achieve it, generation after generation."
My point -- be careful of your age bias.
It shows up everywhere… Check out these stats from the National Institute of Health (NIH), where funding is increasingly goes to older researchers.
Make sure to provide an open environment where your youngest (both physically and mentally) aren't afraid to share their ideas and test their assumptions.
Finally, remember, "the day before something is a breakthrough, it's a crazy idea."
Where in your organization do you allow your teams to try crazy ideas?
More on this next week in Part 2 of this blog where we'll take a look at how to try some crazy (brilliant) ideas.
This is the sort of conversation we explore at my 250-person executive mastermind group called Abundance 360.
The program is highly selective. If you'd like to be considered, apply here.
Share this with your friends, especially if they are interested in any of the areas outlined above.
P.S. Every week I send out a "Tech Blog" like this one. If you want to sign up, go to Diamandis.com and sign up for this and Abundance Insider.
P.P.S. I've just released a podcast with my dear friend Dan Sullivan called Exponential Wisdom. Our conversations focus on the exponential technologies creating abundance, the human-technology collaboration, and entrepreneurship. Head here to listen and subscribe: a360.com/podcast