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INNOVATION TAKES TIME

Throughout my early life, my father had a favorite saying: “An idea is rarely conceived and perfected at the same time.” When he uttered those words, I would inevitably show my annoyance and set out to prove him wrong. At the time, I failed to realize the wisdom in the lesson and have since come to understand that innovation is often a series of ideas, built one on top of another like the blocks of an arch. We obtain these building blocks through many thoughtful observations which we hypothesize, iterate, and test over a period of time. Creating an environment that supports innovation within our organizations takes time and patience. When you read the history of how Mr. George founded and opened the first Publix Super Market in 1940, it was an idea that took 10 years to develop into the innovation it became. The “food palace,” as it was described, was based on a very lofty vision and was seen as a true innovation, but ultimately it was built on many smaller, innovative ideas, including air conditioning; automatic doors; and a clean, friendly aesthetic. These concepts took years to develop and were the result of the first two stores Mr. George opened in the years preceding.

START SMALL AND BUILD ON SUCCESSFUL INITIATIVES

I believe that the 10 years that Mr. George spent conceptualizing the first two Publix Food Stores was a time of trial and error during which he worked to test his nascent ideas that eventually became the first Publix Super Market. During these formative years, it is likely he began to implement and prove — at least to himself — that the innovations he believed in could work on a larger scale.

Innovation is an iterative process, a process that consists of many rounds of trial and error that ultimately result in a revelation that refines an idea to a point at which it becomes practical in the real world. During this process, it is important to take each successive failure, learn from it, and try again. This often means it is better to execute small projects and see what works in order to learn along the way as opposed to spending huge amounts of time planning for scenarios that may not happen. Starting small also allows the innovator to experiment, to test an idea and discern if it might succeed or even fail — a scenario that excessive planning would not necessarily expose. In the end, the real trick is to recognize, through the many small failures, when it’s time to put an idea to rest and to move on to the next one.

CELEBRATE AND LEARN FROM FAILURE — IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN FREQUENTLY

There are many different views that encompass failure and address whether it is a necessary step in the creative process. When interviewing job candidates, we at QGiv and Cipher Integrations often ask this question: “Is it better to be overly creative and innovative in your approach to a problem, or better to be overly conservative and traditional? Why?” This question highlights our philosophy of problem solving: in failing and mistake-making, it is possible (and likely) that one will develop a better approach to the problem. This is something that a traditional approach most certainly would not develop. There is a relationship between innovation and failure. It follows, then, that if one does not allow for failure, one may likely never improve or find a better approach. We often hear of leaders not accepting failure, but failure is necessary for us to improve. Often, the greatest failure in one’s life can become

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