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Innovation Suffocation

Image credit: Matthew Wynn

This morning I read an interesting article by Scott Anthony called “How Iteration-itis Kills Good Ideas” in which the author details an experience he had at a company whose system and culture were accidentally stifling creativity.

“We never see any good ideas,” lamented a senior executive. “People bring us ideas. But they just don’t have any . . . magic.”
At first, I found the comment surprising. I had just begun to get to know the company, and it seemed to me to be brimming with innovation energy, particularly among young employees who would regularly throw out creative “What if’s” during casual conversations.
A month later, it was clear that the problem — as is almost always the case — wasn’t a lack of raw ideas. Instead, there was a problem with the process that an idea generator had to go through before they stood in front of senior leadership. The company, it turned out, had a deep case of iteration-itis.

As the article goes on, the author makes a rather unintuitive point – the more an idea is presented for feedback and revised, the further it distances itself from the original stroke of creative genius. As E.B. White once said, “analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.” I believe the same principle can apply to creativity and innovation; while constructive feedback can be valuable, too much of it can water down and ultimately kill an idea.
What is your view on the role of feedback in idea generation? What techniques do you use to encourage creativity and innovation? Share with us in the comments below.
How Iteration-itis Kills Good Ideas by Scott Anthony – Harvard Business Review
Lightbulb! by Matthew Wynn

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