“I Wouldn’t Start From Here” — The Innovator’s Angle

The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.

Anthony Jay

Spotting the right questions can involve some mental acrobatics for innovators, according to Michael O’Duffy. Citing James Dyson’s approach to innovation, O’Duffy, CEO of the Centre for Software Engineering at DCU, told the Irish Computer Society recently, “He is one of our favorites because we can all relate to him so well.”

In approaching new product development, O’Duffy referred to an old Kerry joke about the driver who gets badly lost and asks a local for directions. The Kerryman responds, “If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here.” O’Duffy’s point was that innovators need to step back and look at the problem from different angles.

In New England, they have a similar joke with a slightly different punchline: “You can’t get there from here.” And writing from Boston, Michael Schrage works that thought some more by asking, what do our innovations want us to become?

Facebook wants you to become someone who attracts, wins, and manages a social network of friends and acquaintances while becoming more sharing and open about your own life. Google wants you to become someone always willing to take a few moments to tap a few keys to explore any question you might have around any topic you might be interested in. The iPad wants you to become someone who’s willing to touch and stroke your way to digital entertainment and information anywhere and anytime. The Kindle wants you to become a bookworm extraordinaire; a textually-tropic annelid who loves to read, annotate and share books and magazines.

Looking at these approaches, it is fair to say that not only are we not starting from here, but I think we just got here from there!

Image of lightbulb

Lightbulb image courtesy of Chuck “Caveman” Coker on Flickr.