I was listening to an interview on CBC Radio, a discussion on innovation. Conservative investment is based on what we know might work: this develops many improvements but few radical innovations. It’s the innovations that move us ahead by huge leaps. The Howard Hughes foundation invests in much riskier projects, and as a result has fewer successes. But when a project succeeds, it is spectacular and revolutionary. Moreover, these projects spin off a culture where creative types thrive and risk is valued. New innovators are born in these places. Are you an innovator? We are restless types, always questioning the status quo.

Eugene Lowry writes,

“The intrinsic power of the rut called ‘common sense’ explains (in a reverse fashion) the experience of serendipity. The reason that flashes of insight come when one is not looking is that our cognitive ruts lose their tenacious hold upon us when our mind is occupied with other things or begins to drift as we go to sleep. Hence, the unthinkable thought (generally inverted from common sense) has a chance to break through. Such uncommon sense comes as an intuitive, “aha!”

“Unfortunately, the more we know about a subject, the more apt we are to stay locked into our assumptions, and hence to become blind to alternative perspectives. So believes William Gordon, who is convinced that experts in all fields are particularly vulnerable to the counter-productive power of “common sense.” In his book, Synetics, he explains his method for developing creative solutions in the business world. Because the ‘experts’ seem trapped by mental blinders, Gordon’s method uses small groups of persons unfamiliar with the technology or discipline in which the problem has occurred. Being ‘innocent’ of experience perspective, these novices are often able to provide solutions the experts cannot discern because of their expert common sense.” (The Homiletical Plot, 53-54)

But there are other reasons we don’t see more innovations, and not only blindness born of familiarity or risk aversion. Walter Brueggemann writes,

“Our problem today: the space for imagination to expand and take shape is inversely proportional to the speed at which we live. Driven hard and fast, we lack the time to allow alternate worlds and possibilities to form, careening past small turnings and exits, bound to follow the obvious straight paths of the present arrangement. Yet if we stop and wait, and close our eyes to the “buy now, take me now” images, we will begin to remember, new worlds will form and new exits will become apparent. Before change.. comes waiting..” (Brueggemann, Hopeful Imagination, 56-57)

See also “developing change leaders