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You’re plenty innovative. Now go to work

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Scott Berkun, whose book several years ago challenged the assumption that innovation and greatness are linked, is back at it.

A new paperback edition of The Myths of Innovation still warns that novelty for the sake of novelty is overrated.

Usually, “innovation” is a distraction from the task at hand, Berkun says.

He warns leaders to use the word as little as possible.

“Many great ideas and breakthroughs were achieved without people worrying if they were innovative enough,” he says. “They simply chose to try to solve a problem they or their customers cared about. And then later on, after the hard work was done, they were called ‘innovators.’ It’s a good word to let other people say about you, rather than use it in reference to yourself.”

Berkun points out that everybody finds silver bullets alluring—the notion of fast, easy answers to problems.

“They’re fantasies, and fantasies are way more fun than hard work,” he says. “We also like heroes, as worshipping is easier than working.”

The key to innovation, and the core of his book, is showing exactly how some of our most innovative heroes achieved great things. People like Tesla, DaVinci, Edison and Jobs.

Yes, they had good ideas. And they worked their tails off.

“If you are alive, have a job and can drive yourself to work, you have creative ability,” Berkun says, suggesting this easy test: “If I locked you, or anyone you know, in a closet, after an hour you’d be plenty innovative. You’d experiment and try things to escape. The tools are all there in our minds.”

— Adapted from “Assumptions About Innovation And Greatness,” Mac Slocum,

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