Why receptivity is so important to innovation

Innovation happens only when inspiration hits the receptive mind. You can’t manage inspiration, but you can manage receptivity.

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All knowledge creation activities are based around approaches to helping people to move outside their boxes, and open their minds; on helping them to be receptive, rather than judgmental, and on helping people to step outside the “known” – outside the box – and to be open to looking at things differently.

  • For example, the Deep Dive process  that we use in Knoco is based not only on a rigorous approach to problem analysis, but also on a series of exercises to de-limit the thinking of the team members. Deep Dive is used as a way to bring innovative thinking to the biggest business issue.
  • Similarly the Technical Limit process used by Shell involves challenging teams to deliver the best result possible, encouraging them to challenge the way things have always been done.  Technical limit is used in the project planning phase.
  • Even the humble After Action Review can include a knowledge creation step, when the team discusses “How will we do this differently next time”.

Innovation and knowledge creation can be encouraged by any of these processes, and although you cannot manage inspiration, you can use processes such as these to encourage receptivity.

The main enemy of receptivity is prior knowledge. As Epictetus said, “you cannot teach someone something they think they already know”. This means that if you give people problems they know how to solve, they will not look for additional knowledge, and they will not think outside the box. They will say – “We know how things work. These new ideas are not needed”.

So the key cultural behaviours that drive Knowledge Creation are these

  • challenge to the way things are currently done,
  • continually looking for a better way, and
  • non-judgmentalism when faced by new ideas.

Innovation and knowledge creation therefore is an active combination of process and behaviour, rather than a passive waiting for inspiration to strike, because Inspiration, when it meets a closed mind, will be killed by judgment.

You can’t manage inspiration. You can manage receptivity.

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Shared by: Nick Milton

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