June 29th, 2007
Scott is the best selling author of The Art of Project Management, and recently published his new book, The Myths of Innovation. In The Myths of Innovation, Scott examines the history of innovation and reveals how ideas truly become successful innovations-truths that people can apply to today’s challenges.
In the interview, Scott discusses the road to innovation, whether innovators are born or made, the challenges innovators face, and why the best ideas don’t often “win.”
Question: Is progress towards innovation made in a straight line? For example, transistor to chip to personal computer to web to MySpace.
Answer: Most people want history to explain how we got here, not to teach them how to change the future. To serve that end, popular histories are told in heroic, logical narratives: they made a transistor, which led to the chip, which create the possibility for the PC, and on it goes forever. But of course if you asked William Shockey (transistor) or Steve Wozniak (PC) how obvious their ideas and successes were, you’ll hear very different stories about chaos, uncertainty and feeling the odds were against them.
If we believe things are uncertain for innovators in the present, we have to remember things were just as uncertain for people in the past. That’s a big goal of the book: to use amazing tales of innovation history as tools for those trying to do it now.
Question: Why don’t the best ideas win?
Answer: One reason is because the best idea doesn’t exist. Depending on your point of view, there’s a different best idea or best choice for a particular problem. I’m certain that the guys who made telegraphs didn’t think the telephone was all that good an idea, but it ended their livelihood. So many stories of progress gone wrong are about arrogance of perception: what one person thinks is the right path—often the path most profitable to them— isn’t what another, more influential group of people thought.
I think you’ll definitely find this interview interesting if you see innovation as central to you work, or if you’re managing or leading any kind of creative projects.
You can read the entire interview here: Ten Questions with Scott Berkun, Author of “The Myths of Innovation”Tweet