Creative LeadershipCreativityEngaging Culture

The 5 Stages of Innovation

My friend Josh Craft showed me this chart of the steps people go through with innovation and I have to admit, it’s spot on.  I’ve seen this exact sequence play out so many times it’s not funny, but it’s worth repeating.  The next time you want to make real change happen in your organization, get ready to experience this sequence:

1. People deny that the innovation is required.
2. People deny that the innovation is effective.
3. People deny that the innovation is important.
4. People deny that the innovation will justify the effort required to adopt it.
5. People accept and adopt the innovation, enjoy its benefits, attribute it to people other than the innovator, and deny the existence of stages 1 to 4.

Anything out of place or something you’d like to add?

(Inspired by Alexander von Humboldt’s ‘Three Stages Of Scientific Discovery’, as referenced by Bill Bryson in his book, ‘A Short History Of Nearly Everything’.)

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  1. We often think just because we have a good idea, making the necessary changes will be effortless and without obstacles.  It’s good to be reminded that there will be struggles, but that doesn’t mean we should stop pressing forward… unless our idea really isn’t that great in the first place. 🙂

    Allen Paul Weaver III Author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers and Speedsuit Powers (Dec 2009)

  2. So well (humorously) put – also so (frustratingly) true. As an artist, visionary, and creator seeing the need for innovation on so many levels, in so many aspects of life and work the challenge becomes in conveying, convincing and cultivating cooperation to effect no.5! Care to offer insight?

  3. True for sure! I’m still trying to cultivate cooperation and convince as well. Apathy and lack of excellence is my biggest hurdle at work. Not being in a position of authority makes it even more difficult for me.

  4. The ONLY way to survive this cycle is to work to please God alone. Everyone else is secondary. That makes the excellence you strive for worth it even if nobody else seems to care because He knows who did what so taking the credit…or the blame, is not the goal. Easy to say and pretty darned hard to do!

  5. AJL – it actually makes work easier. When I accepted that I’m working for God alone my attitude towards others changed from noticing what they do to helping them when I could. Funny thing happened, some people aren’t too fond of someone else going that extra mile. It picked up productivity but not contentment in the lab. It’s all good though, I help in my church when I can and everyone wants to chip in and help do things all of the time. I’m grateful to have another outlet where attitudes are different. 

  6. There is an old saying …. you either keep working to get better or you die. Well, the same can be said for innovation. Many that I have have interacted with and encountered throughout my career have determined that it is better to maintain the status quo than to take a risk that will make them better. Those that have chosen this route have failed or continue to run their organization into the ground.

    Those that have embraced innovation are thriving and leading the way to new heights. The decision is yours, which way are you going to go?

  7. This also explains why so many innovators (Steve Jobs, for example), are hyper-focused, strong willed, hard headed, relentless, unwavering, and somewhat arrogant leaders (at least perceived as such) who are often accused of being bullies. Some mix of those traits are required to get ideas through stages 1-4. Real innovators need that forehead like flint so they can go over, under, around or through the opposing crowd of Lilliputians neutered by their own inertia, in order to create something BAM. Consistently fighting the crowd may create some real personality disorders, but it seems the most predictable route to real change.

  8. Working as a church media guy, Pastor’s love to see and compare with churches more successful then them. So lets say you have this great idea, it doesn’t really matter until one of the “biggies” try it. You may have brought the idea up in meetings but until they see someone else “wearing it” they don’t want your idea. Look at it this way, at least you know your ideas have are actual value. It’s really about Pastor’s not wanting to take on risk.

  9. 6. People deny that the innovative employee should have a thought, opinion, idea, resolution, or to even speak change to senior staff. Thinking, speaking robots are warned to fall in line. Change is something the rest of the world does, not the superior longstanding organization that always does what they’ve always done, even if they’re being buried alive… and deny that too. After all, who needs a change of scenery when you’re blindfolded?

  10. The wisdom found in the comments by others below is “to work for God alone, to please him and not be concerned with the credit”. Yes, getting your idea heard, accepted and incorporated into your company’s game plan is satisfying and looks good on your mental resume. However, the reward of
    doing it solely for the purpose of honoring God is far more fulfilling. If you are doing your work as unto the Lord, I would be most certain that your idea was birthed through prayer, inferring that the idea was God given to begin with. Ask the Lord to give you favor with your superiors, present your innovation with confidence and passion, and let the Lord do the rest. If they don’t listen, ask God to open doors elsewhere. If it is truly of him, he will open a door that no man can shut, and place you before people who know a good
    thing when they see it.

  11. Reminds me of a quote I read recently- “do what you have to do now, so you can do what you want to do later”.

  12. I would say that innovation is not only required, effective, and important, but that innovation is also a necessary part of life. Without it we are plagued by the mundane.

    It is vital that we as people step out and be innovative. Constantly looking for a new way to do things. In order to keep things exciting. In order to propel us further.

    The people that we regard most in history are the people that were willing to take a chance to be innovate.

  13. This cycle is so true…and maddening. I’ve had numerous times when I innovated (blood, sweat, tears 😉 only for folks to act like they did it…or take it for granted like the sun coming up in LA.

  14. It’s sad but unfortunately this is true, not enough people truly channel the power of innovation. I’ve seen far to many people turn down great ideas just because it seemed out of the box.

    That is simply ridiculous as a DP and an AD I don’t know how my job would get done without a bit of innovation. For example earlier tonight I was on a low budget shoot and my director wanted to snag an above the action shot looking down. Well we didn’t have the equipment to grab a shot like that so instead we took our DSLR and gaff taped it to the ceiling. The result was a gorgeous shot that elevated the quality of the project.

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