Myth of Innovation: Light Bulbs Have Cords


I was thinking about the icon that most of us use to represent innovation: the light bulb. We portray it as the light bulb only, sometimes cartooned-up, mostly lit with a warm yellow glow, floating in space, and not connected to anything. It’s as if an idea by itself causes the bulb to glow. It’s a lie. Light bulbs need a cord or a power source to help emit that warm amber glow.

Innovations Have Tethers

It is rare that innovations within companies are totally untethered. Innovations are about more than the idea itself, although the idea is paramount. Innovations usually rely upon some power source, generally resources such as capital, funding, people but sometimes access, networks, channels or partnerships. If you work in a company, this is easy to understand. Your company will allocate resources to the best ideas that drive strategy execution. If you are running a start-up, for that matter, you know this very well; unless you are wealthy enough to play with your money. Congrats, but for the rest of us;

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From now on, the icon for innovation, the light bulb, should always show the cord. Without it, innovators may misread the tea leaves and believe that they have total freedom.

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Mind-Freedom, Not Total Freedom

The light bulb senza a power source conveys that you are free to do what you want, when you want, how you want. The truth is that innovation offers a great deal of freedom; mind-freedom. Mind-freedom is to think as big as you can, to innovate where others have not gone, to look at the world in your unique way. Behold mind-freedom, it is a powerful elixir. Often, innovation is the only place you can find mind-freedom in the workplace. All other parts of work are formatted, form-filling, stay-in-the box kind of work.