facts on innovation

Interesting facts on innovation.


It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.

Charles Darwin



From Dan Pink’s Blog, we found the following facts on innovation that we would like to share with you:


A study of the top 50 game changing innovations over a 100 year period showed that nearly 80% of those innovations were sparked by someone whose primary expertise was outside the field in which the innovation breakthrough took place.


Wow!  80% created by someone outside the field where innovation occurred!


Related: Does a Paradox on Innovation Design and Creativity Exist in Business?


What other innovation facts and conclusions can we derive from this ?


More about application than invention

Innovation, while often depending on new invention, is more about application than invention.


Already been accomplished

Often the application of something similar has already been accomplished in the other field, usually in a different way.


Diverse crowds

When working innovation, it helps to draw on different skills, experience sets … diverse crowds.


And finally


Be constantly open to new ideas

We need to be constantly open to new ideas, particularly in different fields of endeavor.


The secret to innovation and creativity is curiosity. You generate lots of ideas to find the best of the best. By generating ideas you start by asking lots of questions. By being curious. By thinking widely and not discarding ideas too soon.  By convergent thinking. All of which help us to better understand and define the problem we are attempting to solve.


Yet, without the question “why?” there can be no here’s how to make it better. Or no game changing innovations.


A great example

So we want to share a story to illustrate the value of why you need to ask why.


We are always on the lookout for good stories. Stories to illustrate points we are emphasizing. So we read a lot. Today’s story is about generating ideas. Ideas from convergent thinking.


The story is about why you should ask why. It comes from Ideas Champions. A consulting company like us (but bigger and more well-known), who specialize in creativity, innovation, team building, and leadership. All favorite topics of ours. So we keep up with this team.


The story is about a big problem at one of our favorite monuments … the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC.


Simply put, birds in huge numbers were pooping all over it, which made visiting the place a very unpleasant experience.


Attempts to remedy the situation caused even bigger problems, since the harsh cleaning detergents being used were damaging the memorial.


Fortunately, some of the National Parks managers assigned to the case began asking WHY  as in Why was the Jefferson Memorial so much more of a target for birds than any of the other memorials?


A little bit of investigation revealed the following:


The birds were attracted to the Jefferson Memorial because of the abundance of spiders, a gourmet treat for birds.


The spiders were attracted to the Memorial because of the abundance of midges (insects) that were nesting there.


And the midges were attracted to the Memorial because of the light.


Midges, it turns out, like to procreate in places were the light is just so  and because the lights were turned on, at the Jefferson Memorial, one hour before dark, it created the kind of mood lighting that midges went crazy for.


So there you have it: The midges were attracted to the light. The spiders were attracted to the midges. The birds were attracted to the spiders. And the National Parks workers, though not necessarily attracted to the bird poop, were attracted to getting paid so they spent a lot of their time (and taxpayer money) cleaning the Memorial.


How did the situation resolve? Very simply.


After reviewing the curious chain of events that led up to the problem, the decision was made to wait until dark before turning the lights on at the Jefferson Memorial. About as simple a solution as you could get. Right?


That one-hour delay was enough to ruin the mood lighting for the midges, who then decided to have midge sex somewhere else.


No midges, no spiders. No spiders, no birds. No birds, no poop. No poop, no need to clean the Jefferson Memorial so often. Case closed.


Now, consider what solutions might have been forthcoming if those curious National Parks managers did not stop and ask WHY:


Hire more workers to clean the Memorial

Ask existing workers to work overtime

Experiment with different kinds of cleaning materials

Put bird poison all around the memorial

Hire hunters to shoot the birds

Encase the entire Jefferson Memorial in Plexiglas

Move the Memorial to another part of Washington

Close the site to the general public



Technically speaking, each of the above solutions was a possible approach, but at great cost, inconvenience, and with questionable results. Not great solutions.


Key takeaways

What problems are you facing that could be approached differently simply by asking WHY. and then WHY again, and then WHY again … until you get to the real definition of the problem?


If you don’t, you may just end up not correctly defining the problem. Not good. Nothing worse than solving the wrong problem. So put in enough time to understanding and defining your problem. Don’t leap to problem solving before you do. Lots of whys help us explore and thoroughly define the problem.



What conclusions does your business derive from these facts on innovation?


Remember … all new ideas begin in a non-conforming mind that questions some tenet of the conventional wisdom.


So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is completely up to you.


It’s up to you to keep improving your business innovation process and efforts. Lessons are all around you. In some cases, your competitor may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. Or collaborating with you. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.


All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.


When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.


Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.


Are you devoting enough energy improving your creativity, innovation and ideas?

Do you have a lesson about making your creativity better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?


Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+Twitter, and LinkedIn.  

Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change.  We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.


More reading on creativity and innovation from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library:

How You Can Improve Creative Thinking Skills by Adding Constraints

The Small Business Crash Course on Creative Business Ideas

Does a Paradox on Innovation Design and Creativity Exist in Business?



Like this short blog? Follow Digital Spark Marketing on LinkedIn or add us to your circles for 3-4 short, interesting blogs, stories per week.


Photo Credit: opensource.com via Compfight

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3 Responses to 6 Amazing Facts on Innovation You Need to Know

  1. Karen Blommers says:

    I am very interested in where I can find the evidence of the statement that 80% of the innovations were sparked by people whose primary expertise were outside the field in which the innovation took place. Can you please give me a reference?

    Thank you in advance.

    • mike says:

      Karen, I found that statement in one of Daniel Pink’s Blogs 2-4 years ago. I am sure he was referencing someone’s work.

      I have look through Pink’s archive but did not find it (although I am sure it will be there).

      Good luck and if you find the original source, please send it to me … I need to be better with sources and references. :) Thanks.

  2. Julie says:

    Wow, I did not know about this. It’s a great example of how the brain truly gets stuck in a rut and refuses to think of other possible solutions. I wonder what other simple, inexpensive solutions the government could come up with to save us money?

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