Innovation – who owns the apples?

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and if we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas” George Bernard Shaw

What has this to do with Innovation you may ask? Well the crux of the matter is the word have. Does it mean ‘own’ or does it mean ‘have access to’ and who actually does the ‘having’? George Bernard Shaw was correct about ideas, knowledge is the only resource that does not lose value when you share it. If you are the initial source of knowledge then you will gain kudos and perhaps receive some financial gain which the leads many people to becide to become gurus and ration their knowledge, using it as a source of power.

Because people are resourceful you will soon find that your guru status evaporates and what knowledge you have is worth little as those around you will create their own knowledge or find a new guru.

Back to apples and innovation. In a truly innovative organisation or society we need to create a culture which would prove George Bernard Shaw wrong. If each of us has an apple and exchanges it then we each must have two apples – it is our concept of sharing, building upon ideas and skills, and saying ‘yes and’ that needs to be addressed. It is our interpretation of ‘have’ that needs some work so that it refers not to ownership but to shared access and potential.

One thing that George did not say was that if we kept the seeds from the fruit then planted them and cared for them we could create many more apples in the future. This may be a cultural shift and a metaphor too far for many businesses.

For different ideas about taking organisations forward visit the Creative Business Solutions website.

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