Connecting Disparate Dots (Recombinant Innovation)

“An assumption we often make about innovation is that it always has to involve something new to the world. The reality is that there is plenty of scope for crossover ideas and applications which are commonplace in one world may be perceived as new and exciting in another. This is an important principle in sourcing innovation where transferring or combining old ideas in new contexts – a process called recombinant innovation.”  – Bessant and Tidd Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

Our world is being transformed. The very idea of change and all that it encompasses is being altered and accelerated to once considered astonishing levels. The very idea of change is being augmented and amplified, not so much by the big corporations and organizations, rather by the creatives, innovators, entrepreneurs, pioneers, cross-pollinators, social anthropologists, visionaries, and changents who are creating and layering new possibilities right over what we once considered impossible.

They are the new leaders. And these new leaders who are changing the game aren’t just inventing new, they are connecting what already exists in profoundly creative ways.

They are exploiting what already exists, in ways that were never previously visualized. They are finding fertile ground for innovation not just in the creating, but in the combining. Combining and cross-pollinating those disparate dots that were yet to be linked or considered. In many ways, they are creative concept and idea recyclists.

Or as Andrew Hargadon imparts, “Innovators rarely come up with new ideas; instead, they convert old ideas into new ones, adapting them from one context to another.” Which leads to what he calls “recombinant innovation.”

Which supports the need for not only a depth, but a real breadth of learning and knowledge as well. Recombining and connecting disparate dots necessitates a much wider idea landscape and well from which to draw from. Which then entails and requires much broader ranges of reading, connections and networks. As well as an environment and organizational culture that supports learning and the learner.

For which Hargadon adds, “Innovation requires collective action because, at the beginning, the power of these groups provides the conditions for generating truly novel recombinations. The act of innovation is, in its early stages, is just another act of deviance.”  He continues, “The price we pay for networked perspective, for abandoning the simplicity of individual inventors and their inventions, is significant. Established facts need to be revisited, old assumptions questioned, and traditional stories retold.”

Leveraging learning, mixing and remixing of ideas, and a  blending of ‘old’ world meets ‘new’ world will be prerequisites for this work. But what we find when we become the connectors of disparate dots and creative idea and concept recyclists, is that innovation often resides in what already exists right before us.

In many cases, innovation is right under our nose, we just didn’t have on the right lens or put forth the creative perspective that eventually allowed us to see and visualize it.

There is no box, just dots. Often disparate dots waiting to be discovered, waiting to be connected.

How we connect them, will determine how creative and innovative we are and eventually become.


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