As I look at this little guy at school in Rwanda I am reminded how much we need a culture of innovation – one that thinks differently about today’s (and yesterday’s) normality. We must bring solutions necessary to change lives that will improve the future. Solutions for today’s big problems exist, we have the capacity to make a difference, but wherever we work or serve. To do thiswe need to creat a culture of innovation.
‘Culture’ comes from a farming context, to ‘cultivate’ the soil, ‘cultivate’ to provide food for people and income for the farmer. Crops won’t grow on their own, they need to be surrounded by the activity and attitude that will make them grow and produce crops. Along with the factors to produce a bumper crop, there are also factors that will crush it – especially neglecting the key factors of cultivation.
In the same way a culture of innovation is a cultivated context and atmosphere. It can be created or crushed. By who? By you! …and me. A culture of innovation is everybody’s responsibility to ‘cultivate’, but it is the leader’s responsibility to establish, model and shape the culture.
So here is a pop-quiz: Are you an innovation culture crusher or an innovator culture creator?
Which statement do you relate to?
1. “I can’t innovate because I don’t have…” Or “I can innovate, even if I don’t have…”
2. “Failure is not an option” Or “Failure is a necessity”
3. “I’d like to, but…” Or “I have to, or else…”
4. “But the rule says…” Or “Break the rules”
Well, you can tell (I hope) that the right answer is the second statement. Innovation needs the right conditions:
Limitations breed innovation – big problems have limitations in funds, time, environmental factors and skills requires. Don’t complain about them, working within limitations is essential for innovation.
Failure is the pathway to the best ideas – it means we review, reflect and refine ideas. They just get better, the more we fail. Embrace it, don’t fear it.
Compelled to make a difference, to improve lives - if we are motivated by meeting a real need that will impove lives or even saves lives, then there is a sense of urgency.
Think differently – Rules may be real rules that are enforced or social mores that we unconsciously abide by.
What does this mean for the little guy in the photo?
Limitations: funds, resources and the physical environment are limitations to work within, but ideas aren’t.
Failure: some ideas may not work, but some eventually will be. Time is essential for the development of the best solutions.
Compelled: What is the future opportunity for this boy, his friends and his generation if we don’t innovate? The cost is too great.
Think differently: with more than 50% of the population of Rwanda under the age of 18 and significant rates of youth unemployment, the current approach isn’t working.
Choose to be an innovation culture creator.