We usually look at innovations in retrospect. We think that an innovator did X→Y→Z steps to achieve the desired result.
Does innovation really work that way?
People love inspiring linear stories. A good story motivates and makes things look more evident than they are. But one's life journey isn't a linear well-written story; it's more like a random walk, a bittersweet cocktail of confusion, mistakes, and irrational decisions.
Our brains wander from one idea to another. A curious mind continuously re-evaluates what we should do next based on the current circumstances. We change over time, and what we do changes too.
Innovating is something you start to do way before the idea of a product or an organization even comes up.
It all starts with a hunch of a real-world problem. Innovation doesn't have a definitive path to implement it by its very nature. This path consists of choices, and often there are no right choices, and there are many possible outcomes. In many cases, innovation is a side product—which we don't even realize—of our iterative learning process.
- Start with a hunch about a real-world problem.
- Build a prototype to illustrate the problem.
- Build a community around the problem.
- Learn by trial and error.
- Scale, or adjust, or try a new idea.