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Innovation is Like the Path of Odysseus

November 16, 2013, 9:00 AM

How does improvisation work in a business context? 

Innovation is almost all about improvisation because what is going to happen is when you start developing that new product or that new restaurant or that new design concept for a piece of clothing or how the packaging is going to work for that can of paint you realize that there are constraints that you didn't know before. 

So what is going to happen is the real world is going to kick in.  There are going to be money issues, production issues.  It doesn't come in that color.  There is not enough resin in the world, whatever it is and at that point you have to innovate again, but now you're innovating in the how space, not the what space. 

So what you're trying to create is relatively fixed.  How you're going to get there is completely different and I think of it like "The Odyssey'.  If you've ever read Homer's "Odyssey', you know he's got this concept.  Odysseus, he wants to go home to Ithaca, but how he gets home takes a lot longer than he thought it was and he's got be very clever along the way.  I think that's the innovation path.  

As a rule of thumb I like to tell people you have to be very open and an innovation usually takes you three times as long and at least twice the amount of money you thought it would.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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Innovation is Like the Path...

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