I have enjoyed a very interesting career as an award-winning, inventor, bestselling innovation, author, and innovation, executive and consultant. During my career I have had the opportunity to witness innovation in a very practical way. I have seen amazing innovations created from the ground up that has delivered millions of dollars of value to the marketplace. I’ve also seen innovation reapplied in a way that goes far beyond the “bright shiny object” to include new innovative ways in which we gain customer and market insights, and the way in which we deliver value through commercialization and supply chain.
My concern is that we may be inspiring a new generation of “replicators” instead of innovators. Several years ago, I invented an award-winning line of educational toys called Hanz. The motto of my company was instructions not included. I created this line of toys because I wanted to encourage my own children to create new ideas, and solutions. Today the overwhelming majority of toys that claim to be innovation toys, are really nothing more than three-dimensional puzzles. Unfortunately, this includes one of my favorite companies Lego. If you go to a Target store, you’ll see that the majority of Lego toys are not innovation platforms, rather they are puzzles that come with step-by-step instructions. It turns out that the major challenges that we will be facing in the future will not be coming from the replication of old ideas. It will however come from new ideas, and frankly, completely new ways of thinking.
I hope that we can encourage our upcoming leaders in our organizations to look at our problems, and opportunities from my perspective of newness, rather than a retooling of all the ideas that are likely irrelevant today. In my consulting business, I see so many executives, providing their employees with step-by-step instructions, rather than participating in collaborative ideation to build new great solutions.