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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Innovation Cliche and Self-Help

@jamestodhunter asks if anyone else sees the irony in the notion that the same old tired quotes keep getting trotted out in tweets on innovation?

It's not just on Twitter. Blogs and articles and books and workshops on innovation often recycle the same old ideas, the same old advice. And it's not just innovation-speak that is often dull. Creativity-speak can also be tediously predictable. People who are genuinely creative and innovative aren't necessarily very good at explaining how it's done, and may prefer to get on with being creative and innovative rather than talking about it.

In any bookshop, you can usually find several books on innovation and creativity in the "business" shelves, just as you can find several books on parenting skills and sexual technique in the "psychology" section. My own belief is that it's probably okay to read one or two of these, because they might contain some useful information as well as common sense; but if you read too many, there's a problem, because they're all basically saying the same thing. (Or so I imagine.) If you aren't able or willing to find the answer from the first book, then you are unlikely to get the answer from the tenth either.

If you want to get better at something, don't read books about it, go and practise it. If you must read books, choose books about something completely different: novels or fairy stories or ancient myth, biographies of explorers and scientists and mystics, and be inspired.


  1. I also find it remarkable that so many books, websites, trainings given in the area of creative and lateral thinkings uses the same examples.
    How clever is that? Predictable...

  2. Well, now I'm going to go do a twitter search to find some examples! I am thinking (though don't know if this is what you are thinking of as well), all the quotes I see on those big posters from some years back -- you know, ocean or forest scenes, with pithy remarks about teamwork, and success, etc. I like browsing through all those self-help books. Some are good, some aren't, but there's usually something useful in there! There's a great, fun one out there now, called "Take the E Out of EGO & GO!" The authors are a couple -- very lighthearted, as if you can't tell from the title, who have learned to get their pride out of the way and then work together harmoniously. It's business, it's self-help, it's relationships of both a business and personal nature. It's got excellent, down-to-earth examples (here's a preview of the book) of high standards and human value.

  3. I just looked at the preview of the book recommended by "Liz" (to save my readers the trouble). If you want to read a story in which one of the authors brags about getting a bargain buying a private jet, this may be just the book for you.