Innovators squirrel away things they don't know how to use. Designers and sculptors collect photos and keep warehouses or cabinets full of things they can't use (yet). Painters and product developers keep sketchbooks. Innovators of all stripes keep "junk," as one designer called it, against the day when, leafing through a notebook or tidying a shelf, they have an "Aha!" moment.
Managers should support those tendencies—both by providing space for the collections and by endorsing the practice, instead of making it seem peripheral to "real" work.
Managers also shouldn't interfere by insisting on, say, an efficient storage system. Finding things too easily could mean missing an accidentally valuable idea.
Accidents lead to innovations. So, how do you create more accidents?
By Robert D. Austin, Lee Devin and Erin Sullivan
Dr. Austin is professor, managing creativity and innovation, at the Copenhagen Business School and an associate professor of technology and operations at Harvard Business School. Dr. Devin is a professor emeritus of theater and a senior research scholar at Swarthmore College. Dr. Sullivan is a senior research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health's Global Health Delivery Project.
Printed in Campaign, Mint, India dated 21 July 2008