Is there a limit to innovation?

Posted on June 4, 2008. Filed under: innovation | Tags: , , , , |

Innovation is a ubiquitous word, it’s everywhere there’s a conversation about new ideas in the nonprofit sector or conversations about reforming the nonprofit sector. Innovation is a great word with many different meanings. I typically talk about innovation in the sense of new ideas and forward thinking.

One of my goals is to help in the transformation of the nonprofit sector, to help develop innovative thinking among the next generation of leadership in the nonprofit sector. I have been pleased to see many of my peers wanting to do the same. There have been amazing changes and conversations in the nonprofit community and many people are combining them with new efforts and innovative methods of running organizations. These conversations and idea generations need to continue.

So, lately I have been thinking a lot about the innovative thinking many nonprofit professionals have been taking on, and asking myself these questions:

  • When do we draw the line on innovation? Do we even have to?
  • Can innovation mean just assessing the old way and making it new again?

Both of these questions are hard to answer, but here are my thoughts.

First, I don’t think there is a need to draw the line on any type of innovation. With out innovative thoughts and critical thinking, we would never come up with anything new and everything would continually stay the same. I am sure everything great in history started with a few bad ideas, and people learning from them, along with some possible great innovative ideas that took off without a hitch. Taking on the attitude of innovation puts individuals in the correct mind to think critically about everything they do.

In the nonprofit sector, I hear a lot about not having enough time to do anything but get the job done. This is a bad place to be in. Thinking critically and being innovative doesn’t necessarily have to take time, it is about putting yourself in the mindset to do it every day.

An endless amount of innovation may also mean thinking critically about programs and systems you are already producing in your organization. Innovation doesn’t always have to result in a new idea, which brings me to my second question. Can innovation mean just assessing the old way and making it new again?

Absolutely yes! Innovation doesn’t mean recreating the wheel over-and-over again, it also doesn’t mean always thinking of something new. Innovation and creative thinking are approaches individuals need to take on when do anything, whether it’s creating a new program or evaluating an old one. Some systems and services are great starts; innovation just means keeping them new and fresh.

What do you think about innovation? Is there a limit to it? Is it possible for someone to be too innovative and lose sight of their true work?

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2 Responses to “Is there a limit to innovation?”

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Hi Tera,

I honestly see no limit to innovation. My favorite kinds are the ones that combine productivity and play. I saw this article last month that I think you would find amazing:
http://ecoworldly.com/2008/02/23/water-is-childs-play-but-you-gotta-spin/

Since we’re both members of BC, I want to invite you to my FD Career private beta:

http://FDcareer.com
Code: junloayza

FD Career is a website where you can research companies and contribute by adding your comments about companies. This is a very early private beta, so you’ll most likely encounter a lot of bugs. Throughout the summer, we’ll be releasing more features like the FD RPG and FD Answers.

Would love it if you tried it out, added your contributions, and gave me your feedback.

Thanks Tera! Look forward to hearing back from you.

– Jun

Jun,
Thank you for pointing me to the article. I have seen these water wheels before and love the idea of them. It is amazing how combining two such simple things can lead to such a big change.


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