Innovation although a natural response to circumstance, which can almost always be improved, still requires the application of energy. Resistance has to be overcome by doing work.Issac Newton tells us, there is an equivalence between work and energy. Humans tend to make things a little bit more complicated psychologically, for we do not have equal energy available for all tasks. For some the act of innovating is natural and involuntary, becoming increasingly effortless, as do most actions with practice.
Musicians and athletes also must practice to get so good at their playing, that it seems to become effortless, which is why wha they do is called playing. When watching master musicians or professional athletes, they make the extraordinary look easy, because they have invested so much effort and time, as to have reached a state world class jazz pianist Kenny Werner wrote an excellent book on the topic called “Effortless Mastery”.
Experienced innovators are like musicians and athletes, in that they too when in their flow zone also appear to be playing, because for them innovation has become effortless. And just as there are natural athletes and natural musicians who appear to pick up their mastery faster than others, there are also natural innovators who have something which can be measured to distinguish them, SVII calls innovation vitality.
Innovation vitality is akin to talent. When observing a young child destined to be a terrific athlete or musician, observers generally say this person has “talent” or is “talented”. When we encounter extraordinarily creative innovative people, they too have an ineffable quality about them, which can be called Innovation Vitality and it too is a talent.
We have observed that talent alone does not suffice to become world class and enter into the state where performance is at such a high level as to appear to be “effortless mastery”. Talent is simply a measure of having an easier time developing a skill. For example a child prodigy musician seems to enter a different type of accelerated learning curve than the non prodigy. Prodigies too must invest considerable energy to progress from talent to skill. It does seem like it is easier for them, which is why they are called a prodigy. They are prodigious at what they are doing.
Skill however is not the same thing as accomplishment. A talented person may need to expend less energy and do less work to become skilled but then they need to apply another large measure of energy to do the work to become accomplished. Since energy is applied both in advancing from talent to skill and then again from skill to accomplishment it is clear that effort counts more than talent as it shows up twice. His means accomplishment is proportional to the square of talent a quadratic or higher order relationship.
Enormous talent may permit a person who invests considerable energy to become an athlete or musician with what appears to be greater ease than a less talented person, they still have to invest the effort, do the work and expend the energy to get to the level where they have a skill an then they have to do it again to become accomplished and then they have to do it some more to become world class.
Some have a talent for innovation which does not get the off the hook where they can avoid the significant time and effort to move from having native talent to skill and then to accomplishment. I call this innovation talent, innovation vitality and it appears to be more present in some people, departments, organizations and other entities the others. Not everyone has the same degree of innovation vitality just as not every one has the same innate musical or athletic ability.
All of us can learn sports and music and all of us can also innovate but not all of us become skilled and even less become accomplished and even fewer reach the pinnacle called world class. It is these world class types who appear to have manifested some sort of effortless mastery but this is partially an illusion for it is very significant effort that elevates any person to the level of mastery. One contemporary statement of this is the ten thousand hour rule popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers but first identified and written about by Anders Ericsson who studied violin students in a music academy.
Although the popularized message is sometimes disputed the bottom line is even people who have talent need to invest a lot of time and this is in keeping with the notion that accomplishment is proportional to the square of effort but only linearly proportional to talent.
Lets look a little more deeply into Innovation Vitality, what it is and its are and feeding.
There are some people who are irrepressible. They seem to have a vitality or life force greater than normal. Many traditions have words for this, prana in India, chi or qi in China, ruah in Jewish culture, pneuma in ancient Greece, mana in Hawaiian culture, lüng in Tibetan Buddhism, manitou in the culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and vital energy in Western philosophy.
The bottom line is if you are going to innovate you are going to encounter obstacles and if to you they look like speed bumps instead of chasms you are going to be more lily to get past whatever is in your way. Founders of companies and originators of projects do seem to have a bit extra energy and as new entities tend to take on the values and characteristics of their folders there are some companies or institutions that have innovation cultures. And they tend to have an innovation vitality of their own which can be characterized with a psychological instrument developed and administered by folks at SVII. When the founder is no longer present the innovation vitality of the culture can decline and steps may need to be taken to preserve it especially if inadequate succession planning has occurred.