I was once nearly thrown out of a brainstorming session at IDEO and it marked me for life. No kidding. I behaved the way I always behave at a meeting—agreeing and disagreeing with the participants. So, in reaction to a comment, I said “yes, but….” and was pummeled by the IDEOers for my transgression. My sin was not knowing the ritual of social engagement that generated new ideas. In most good brainstorming sessions, the goal is to build upon others suggestions, not criticize or eliminate them. I was using an efficiency—choice screen to make decisions on the suggestions and prioritize them. The people around the table were using a generative—additive screen requiring a very different behavior.
Ritual plays a significant, if not well understood, role in innovation. Silicon Valley has been successful, in large part, due to the ritualization of creation. It is not just the fact of an innovation ecosystem there, but how it engages socially in choosing new technologies, entrepreneurs, investors. There is a very specific set of rituals that go into collaboration and risk-taking. There is a distinct ritual dealing with how people engage failure (the US is one of the few cultures that accepts and celebrates failure as a learning medium).
Ditto for social media. A whole new set of rituals has grown up off of Facebook and Twitter that are different from traditional church socials or bowling leagues. Gen Yers have new sets of rituals around their technological platforms that differ from their parents and grandparents—and make the technology useful to them.
Perhaps one reason why robots and robotics has been an innovation failure for so many decades is that the field has been dominated by engineers and technologists who aren’t “social” and can’t create new rituals that connect people to their creations and engage them.
Food for thought as the New Decade unfolds.
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