Doing things the way they’ve always been done is rarely the way to win new clients, gain market share, or keep employees engaged. There’s constant pressure to innovate within the business world, whether it’s our products, our services, or even the way we do business itself.

While most business leaders understand the pressure to innovate, creating a work environment that fosters continuous innovation can be difficult. For example, a 2018 study revealed that 70% of employees say they face barriers when asking questions at work and only 24% report regularly feeling curious in their jobs. Yet curiosity and questioning are the building blocks of innovation.

Why is there this disparity between the desire to innovate and the implementation of innovative company culture? It all comes down to some basic misconceptions about innovation. Let’s examine a few of these myths and why they can be so harmful to companies that care about innovating.

Myth #1: Innovation is about producing something new 

The popular definition of innovation is producing something new: a new idea, method, or device. And it’s usually closely associated with creativity. But every story of innovation begins with a problem and the search for a solution.

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Innovation is not just about creating something new for novelty’s sake: It needs to be rooted in a real business problem. “Innovation involves changing your perspective on your existing resources, people, opportunities, and challenges and finding a new approach or different angle. And the result is a competitive advantage, which could be a better way to do a process, a new product, or anything that gives you an edge,” writes Tamara Ghandour, President of LaunchStreet Consultancy and Udemy instructor.  

Myth #2: There’s only one way to be innovative

“Every innovation strategy fails eventually,” writes Greg Satell in Harvard Business Review, “because innovation is, at its core, about solving problems — and there are as many ways to innovate as there are types of problems to solve. There is no one true path to innovation.”

Satell argues that we need to treat innovation like other business disciplines. We should consider it a set of tools designed to accomplish specific objectives. We know it doesn’t make sense to rely on a single tactic for marketing or a single source of financing. Similarly, companies should develop a portfolio of different innovation strategies for specific tasks.

Myth #3: You’re either innovative, or you’re not

This myth is perhaps the most harmful of all because if people believe innovation is an innate skill that they don’t possess, they’ll never challenge themselves to develop it. Udemy instructor Tamara Ghandour explains that neuroscience and behavioral psychology have disproved this myth by showing that innovation is a whole-brain experience. “All of us have the structures for innovation,” she writes. “In fact, intelligence and innovation are actually two separate structures in the brain. Intelligence is similar to highways or deep grooves, while innovation has a lot of loose side roads that are connected across the brain. This tells us that everyone can innovate, and we all have the skills to do it.” 

When you think of innovation as a way of problem-solving or finding solutions, it’s much easier to break it down into its component skills — which are talents that can be developed. This include skills and capabilities like curiosity, asking questions, design thinking, and looking outside your industry for inspiration. 

Unlock innovation on your team 

There are real business benefits to boosting innovation. The most innovative companies in the world delivered 3% more return to shareholders than other large and mid-cap companies from 2005 to 2020. And as we’ve discussed here, innovation doesn’t have to be a mysterious superpower that’s only available to the chosen few. 

Want to create a culture and develop a plan that will help you unlock innovation on your team? Download Addressing the Skills Gaps That Hinder Innovation to learn more.