Hands up who likes to be creative? I know I do. As someone who very firmly identifies as a Co-lab ‘Explorer’ I really enjoy taking things - physical, virtual or conceptual - and letting my imagination loose on what these could become.
You might think that some of this is at odds with someone who has had a very structured, logical, scientific background and I wouldn’t disagree. If I consider the past, I’ve been very fortunate to have the luxury of designing series of experiments, for example to carefully investigate and analyse slight changes in variables. This has helped in understanding the science and inventing new technologies, although typically it comes at a considerable cost. Time.
This incremental kind of approach works really well on one level, where the duration of the work is not a driver to delivering results. However, the commercial world doesn’t work like that. If we’re not one of the first to market with a new product, concept or service then we will always be playing catch-up whilst our potential customers will be becoming ever more familiar with our competitors' offerings.
We generally don’t have the luxury of treating new developments as a meticulous scientific study, being able to make multiple minor adjustments, experiment and hypothesise on the reasons behind differences exhibited. We have to be driven by time and cost in order to survive and thrive so need to maximise the pace of innovation, rather than scientific invention. We benefit from interacting and co-creating with others, harvesting a range of ideas and shaping them to our needs.
So, as an Explorer do I prefer the thrill of invention or the precision of innovation? Well actually I enjoy both but in different ways. Invention challenges me when I have dedicated time and space to think about a challenge really hard, tinker with things and gradually evolve from one design to another. Innovation is still just as creative, it’s simply taking a different approach to tackle problems. Added to this, I’m also learning from the experiences of others rather than trying to rationalise things myself.
With innovation, our final products may not end up being quite what we imagined at the beginning, but nevertheless we will have created something new, purposeful and unique, and hopefully had some fun exploring in the process!
Thanks to Richard Allington for this contribution.