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The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

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Chapter 7. Your boss knows more about innovation than you

What advice would typical executives give Stephen Hawking, one of the brightest living minds, if he worked for them? Would they ask him to write daily status reports? Defend his action items from PowerPoint slides at team debrief meetings? Of similar curiosity is whether Steve Wozniak, Albert Einstein, or Isaac Newton ever filled out time cards, wrote performance reviews, or had their ideas ranked on scorecards by committees of middle managers. Could you imagine Mozart, da Vinci, or Marie Curie sitting next to each other, taking notes, at an all day company-wide event? It's hard to see any of these commonplace situations working out well for the prospect of innovation.

If we struggle to imagine past innovators doing amazing things in our workplaces, what makes us think we can do creative work in them? Talent is only as good as the environment it's in. If we threw Shakespeare or Bach into a creative dungeon, lashing them when ideas entered their minds, odds are against them being creative for long, if at all.

Few managers recognize that their training and experience, designed to protect what exists, work against the forces needed for innovation. The history of management—lurking beneath the hot trends of Harvard Business Review and Fast Company magazine—is rooted in factories, banks, and railroads, not in invention, creative thinking, or revolution. And while it's easy to see the impossibility of managing creative teams with ...

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