When asked to define the legal definition for obscenity, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously quipped “I know it when I see it.” For most of us the same applies to a working definition for innovation. We have a general sense of what it is but we know that under cross examination of the evidence it probably wouldn’t hold up.

Think about what you take to be the most innovative organization in the world and why: Apple, Genentech, any stalwart global brand, obscure NGO or fashionable start-up or will do. Contained in your answer is your belief and confirmation bias that reveals what you really take to be innovation: (more…)

Meet Jack. He knows he will never be a creative genius. He learned that in fifth grade during his weekly trumpet lessons when he sat next to Wynton Marsalis. He learned it again in ninth grade when we played on his junior high basketball with Magic Johnson. He learned it yet again in college when Timothy Berners-Lee was his computer lab partner. The difference in talent or good fortune didn’t seem fair or democratic to Jack, but he knew it was real. Jack knows the truth about creative genius because he has seen it in action and has the good sense to realize that he will never possess it.

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There is a dark, untold back story of innovation that may disturb you: many of the earliest forms of the world’s biggest technological advancements were pioneered by bad people in morally corrupt contexts. The most radical innovation in video streaming started in the pornography industry. The most sophisticated uses of messaging technologies started with drug traffickers and terrorists. Counterfeiters have pimped digital technologies to such an advanced state that governments are rethinking the use of paper-based currencies. (more…)