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The Missing Link in Innovation

Innovation is often described using the following formula:

Innovation = Creativity + Action

However this leaves out a vital element that differentiates an innovation from an invention, or something that is just cool.

Creativity + Action can lead to a whole host of things, great works or art or
compositions of music, a new way for kids to play (think using cardboard
boxes to create cars, forts and caves) and countless other wonderful
things that are simply cool, fun or entertaining. It also leads to a
wide variety of useless things such as the “noodle cooler” and the “banana cutter”.

This is because there is a missing link, that of a “real problem”. If our
creativity and action is not directed towards solving a real problem
then at best we are creating things that are fun and cool, at worst we
are wasting our time and money to produce something that is neither cool
nor fun and is ultimately useless.

Therefore the key to innovation is to spend some time establishing that the
problem you are trying to solve is the right one. After all, in the
words of Einstein:

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”
— Albert Einstein
Maybe the real formula for innovation should look something more like:
Innovation = Real Problem + Creativity + Action

This article originally appeared in my old blog on 24 November 2013.

Please visit to learn more about me.

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