We are constantly bombarded by the need to innovate in the workplace and in our lives. With significant changes facing the laboratory animal care industry, and the need to continually provide the highest quality of animal care and research excellence, we must learn to innovate; the pace of business demands it. Like any art form, innovation requires disciple, patience, consistent effort and a lofty goal. For most of us innovation doesn’t come naturally but with the proper instruction and a good measure of determination we can become effec-tive innovators in the places where we work and live.
The first step to innovation is discovery of the freedom to envision. Allowing yourself the time to think, to imagine, to envision, to take your mind to the place where you ask yourself what if? Albert Einstein said that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and un-derstand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.” Forget about what has been tried in the past and didn’t work or had marginal success. Our imagination is often the only place where we can take off the governors and negative thinking and explore a world of no limitations. Although this may seem like a luxury of time that many of us can’t seem to afford, imagination is truly the first step and probably the most critical step on the road to innovation. In the book Innovation, Tom Gorman wrote “A lot of skill, imagination and judgment always goes into innovation, and that’s what makes it one of the most exciting and challenging pastimes in any industry.” Imagination, the realm of daydreaming, is one of the greatest assets in the work place if you can challenge that time and energy into daydreams that leads to greater efficiencies and effec-tiveness of your organization. Can you feel it, can you imagine how you will feel when that problem has been solved. Walt Disney said, if you can dream it you can conceive it. Practice seeing the invisible and feeling the intangible. Spend some times living in that imagined reality then start the process of moving towards making your dream come true.
Create Your Reality! Now that we have seen it in our minds what the future might hold, what must we do to see it become reality. A tangible thing that once only resided in the confines of our neurons and dendrites. Thoughts become things! It is not uncommon for many to lose the battle right here. It all was so grand in our mind but here is where the rubber meets the road, doing something and believing it can happen. Recently I overheard a colleague utter those two words that always make me cringe “That’s Impossible!” I was tempted to grab him by the collar and tell him of course it’s impossible if you don’t believe it’s possible. What is im-possible: impossible is that thing that no one can do until somebody does it. Send a man to the moon and back, run the perfect mile, or create a hand held computer were consider to be impossible until they became reality. Now what was once considered impossible is routine and ordinary. So what problem are you trying to solve? What challenges are you facing?
Now we apply disciple to the process of innovation, making our ideas a reality. The steps of going from A to Z are not always a linear process. The temptation to find the most direct and quickest path to our goal is compelling as we long to reach for our new reality. However, the most direct path might lead to more of what we have seen in the past, failed systems and practices. Sure the new product or service might meet a short term need but in a short period of time the original problem will manifest itself again. The discipline of creation means that we may have to test ideas several times before we are sure they are going to lead to the desired outcome. As much as this time takes disciple it will also take more of that same freedom that was apply to times of imagination. It’s a time of new ways of thinking and being. Because we are creating a new reality don’t allow the past to limit what the future can look like. In the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach portrays the story of a seagull that wanted nothing more than to fly faster and faster. Day after day he would try many different techniques to help him fly faster. Many times his creations ended in disap-pointment and even injury but with discipline and consistent effort eventually he was able to fly faster than was thought possible opening up a new world to him. An imagined world that became his new reality, through discipline and consistent effort. What new realities do you want to create? What problems are you trying to solve?
It almost seems counterintuitive in the face of a fast paced world to say slow down when it comes to the pro-cess of creation. But it must be said: Slow down in the process of creation. Take the time to ask all the right questions, consider all the possibilities, acknowledge all the limitations real and imagined, and challenge all assumptions. Now begin to create that new reality.
The process of innovation will take time and it will take more creativity and disciple than we may have em-ployed in the past. Innovation requires a Yes We/I Can attitude. And a courage that acknowledges the ob-stacles and challenges but moves forward in spite of them. One of the greatest obstacles to innovation is the fear of failure. How often have we not even attempted something because we thought of the possibility of failure? In T. H. Palmer’s most popular poem we are reminded to keep trying unit we succeed. “Tis a lesson you should heed. Try try try again if at first you don’t succeed”. Many of the most famous innovators of our time have reminded us that failures are most often the necessary steps to our greatest achievements. Dr. Edwin Land once stated “An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail” and the famous Linus Pauling reminds us that “the best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas”. Innovation requires the im-plementation of many ideas until you come up with the one great one.
Isaac Newton the English mathematician and physicist said “If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention, than to any other talent. The value of patience in solving any challenge or problem can never be over estimate. Patience is the glue that keeps the process of innovation together and on pace. Seeing the vision, considering the possibilities, testing and testing different ideas, dealing with small successes and failures are all part of the process of innovation. And this process can be-come derailed at many different places on long the tract. Yet patience says hold on just a little longer, try one more time, you are almost there. Patience sees the impossible and continues to hope. Patience hears the word no and gets excited because it knows that just a few more no’s and there will be a yes. Patience keeps the goal in mind. An important note that must be mentioned when considering the role of patience in the innovation process is that patience by no mean implies inactivity. What problem or challenge is ever solved by not doing anything? The patience that we are speaking of is an action word that is applied to the process of innovation, to keep it moving to become the new reality.
So what problems are you trying to solve? What challenges are you dealing with? Do you have any goals that are going to challenge you to move beyond the comfort of the way things have always been? Do you have goals that will challenge you to do things a little different than they have been done in the past? Do you have goals that might require innovation (imagination, creativity, and discipline) to achieve. Where can you be innovative? As stated earlier, the pace and needs around us are demanding innovation. We may not be natural risk takers, the thought of failure at any level may be incapacitating, and taking time to just imagine and envision new realities may seem laughable, but the process of innovation can become a tool and an art form that when appropriately applied can lead to new discoveries and processes that never before were im-agined. Our innovations may never rival the creation of the personal computer, the light bulb or even open heart surgery, but it may change the way our employees approach their work, the way research excellence is advanced, the way humane care is provided to animals and the way we embrace life and the world around us. We owe it to ourselves, the people around us and the animals we care for to innovate. Starts today… create your new reality.