The ‘Middle’ Of Creativity And Innovation

“Innovation depends on actions and ideas that are new. You can’t extend the limits of possibility without someone doing what has never been done before. There’s sometimes temporary safety in the middle but there is nothing better in the median.”  -Max McKeown from his upcoming The Innovation Book

The problem is…

We like the concept of new, a heck of a lot more than we truly like the new. We like the sound of creativity, much more than we like the chaos and messiness that often accompanies it. And we like the notion of innovation infinitely more than we like the change and disruption that escorts in innovation.

The problem is…

Most organizations, push the median. It is safe and reliable. There is a comfort and predictability that can be found in the middle. Safety and comfort that is not to be found in new ideas, creativity, and innovation.

What we often forget is…

For all our worries about the paralyzing effect of fear in our organizations, safety can also sound the sirens that call us back to the shores of the status quo.

“The truth is that progress depends on stability and instability.” -Max McKeown

The problem is…

In most organizations, we struggle to stand strong in that instability. We struggle to venture into those unknown spaces that new ideas, creativity and innovation force us into. Instead we look for the middle lane. Not too fast, not too slow.

The problem is…

Most often, that is the path to mediocrity. And while there are no horrendous failures to be had, neither are there any big wins. Just incremental movement. Sheltered and secure.

The problem is…

While the middles keeps you insulated from the chaos and anxiety that happens at the outer fringes, it is also removes you from the learning, ideas and thinking that push possibilities in that same space.

What we often forget is…

The moment you think you got things figured out, just as quickly you discover otherwise. And more often than not, what was right today, has changed tomorrow. And what was right tomorrow, has changed the next day. And so on and so on. As our realities change, so do our answers. Which means, that inevitably, our inability to ask different questions, will do little to push forward against those changing realities and impending irrelevance.

It is only when we are willing to explore where we’ve never been before, that we are able to see things we’ve never seen, to think things we’ve never thought, and to engage ideas that we’ve never considered. It is the place where creativity and innovation come together.

The problem is…

This will not be easy. Actually, it will be extremely difficult. It will be messy, riddled with turbulence and anxiety. It will not only push us out of our comfort zone, it will push us into areas of unknown. Where questions lead to more questions, before they lead to answers.

But if we truly want to engage the creativity we crave and the innovation that ignites our organizations, we will have to learn to contend with these forces, “stability and instability.” Knowing we can’t ultimately control them, but we can certainly survive and learn to live with and guide them.

“Only the incurably creative retain their everyday ability to generate divergent ideas. They are the novelty outliers, the future builders.”  -Max McKeown from his upcoming ‘The Innovation Book’

3 thoughts on “The ‘Middle’ Of Creativity And Innovation

  1. Totally enjoyed this article and wish you the best with the launch of your book. I would like to communicate with you about using this piece in my classrooms. I am happy that I found it and believe it is NOT only timely, but needs to be read by everyone in leadership today. Kudos!

  2. Opening meeting today and feeling isolated until reading this. I’m in a school that clicks their tongues at Twitter and saying, “I just don’t see the point.” Overhead projectors were distributed today. It’s Day 1. How do I survive the year??

    • It’s about staying positive, even when the environment may not be…which is why ‘third places’ can be such powerful tools for supporting the ongoing creativity and innovation that is so vital to education right now. Sometimes it is difficult to be the outlier…however, it is those pockets that allow us to one day move from pockets, to scaling creativity and innovation at all levels of an organization.

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