Why would a world-renowned serial inventor fall in love with a method for inventing?
Recently, we had the pleasure of awarding, for the seventh consecutive year, a scholarship in memory of our client, mentor, and good friend, Dr. Micha Shemer, who passed away in May 2007. Micha was a brilliant inventor, innovation expert, globally renowned with numerous patents to his name. Based on his PhD, he invented an entire industry of soy-based meat substitutes, resulting in a company – Tivall, and quite a few imitators and followers.
The company went on to be acquired by Israel’s Osem, and later became part of Nestlé, where Micha’s innovation skills were put to much use. Our friendship and long-term relationship was important for us on many levels, but it also begs a fascinating professional question: who benefits more from learning a method for innovation, a novice or an expert? This question has been discussed in SIT for many years, with strong arguments on both sides, and is relevant, of course, to any method or technique that purports to assist people in becoming more innovative.
The case for teaching novices is quite obvious. Lack of skills and experience in innovation is no different than their absence in any other endeavor. The more interesting question is: why would someone who is inventing like crazy anyway, such as Micha, spend time and effort in studying and practicing – as Micha fanatically did – a method designed to teach him the very skill in which he so excelled?
I want to propose five possible reasons:
Re-inventing your own wheel
The Tiger Woods syndrome, or more recently Roger Federer syndrome, is the phenomenon of a master in his or her field practically dominating it, and yet taking the decision to completely change their style, re-invent the way they go about playing. At the risk of simplification and generalization, we can say that this step can be motivated either by a sense of imminent decline (as in the latter case) or by what we can just assume to be an unstoppable urge to excel without limits (the former). The mark of true innovation experts is the constant search for more and better.
Tools for Others- Innovation Experts
Even masters of their craft tend to prefer certain tools to others. Years ago, we analyzed the award-winning work of a leading ad agency in a European country and discovered that – in SIT terms – they tended to repeatedly use three “Thinking Tools”. It wasn’t easy to convince them that they could benefit from innovation training, but once trained, they greatly expanded their toolbox, resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of awards, including a Cannes Golden Lion.
Spreading the Word
It is not uncommon for inventors or innovation experts to find it hard to communicate their ideas, harness others to collaborate with them, and convince stakeholders to lend their support. As their thought processes are often different, and sometimes much quicker, from others’, they can be difficult to follow and understand. Organizing their thinking methodically can be very effective in overcoming the communication challenge, provided, of course, that this regimentation does not stifle their inventiveness.
Micha loved to teach. He was a great teacher, but the method allowed him to take his teaching a step further. It gave him the tools to explain his own inventions and ideas in a structured format, allowing his students to readily translate their learning into immediate, practical results.
Innovate In What You Eat
The fact that you are an inventor and innovator, does not mean that you haven’t been eating the same steak and potatoes for the past 30 years. Learning an innovation method allows you to expand your innovative capabilities to areas that were previously out of your innovation bounds. Micha, for example, did not limit his use of the tools to his regular work as a food technologist and inventor.
He also radically applied the Subtraction technique, by banishing PowerPoint presentations from his courses and lectures. The effect on audiences was impressive, but no less moving was Micha’s recurring enthusiasm at the opportunity to replace, time and again, the missing presentation with yet another new exercise, video or additional inventive idea.
Cracking Innovator’s Innovation
The argument has been practically settled years ago, and you can probably guess how. Time and again, we see that newcomers to the world of innovation gain huge value from learning a method. However, the most impressive leaps are achieved, contrary to what many would think, by seasoned innovation experts who are still open to refresh their thinking and enrich their toolbox by learning and adopting an innovation methodology.
Now that you understand the importance of innovation methods, check out how to break your mental fixedness and become a green innovation expert.