Don’t Start From Scratch: How Innovative Ideas Arise


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 16, 2023

3 min read


Don’t Start From Scratch: How Innovative Ideas Arise

In the pursuit of innovation, many individuals believe that starting from scratch is the key to success. The idea of completely re-imagining the world and discarding all previous ideas and innovations may seem enticing, but it is often a flawed approach. Creative progress rarely stems from throwing out everything that came before. Instead, the most innovative ideas often arise from building upon existing concepts and making new combinations.

Take, for example, the Wright brothers, who are credited with inventing the world's first successful airplane. They did not start their journey by discarding all previous attempts at flight. Instead, they learned from the work of others and built upon their findings. The Wright brothers studied the works of aviation pioneers such as Sir George Cayley and Otto Lilienthal, who had made significant advancements in understanding the principles of flight. By incorporating and improving upon these ideas, the Wright brothers were able to achieve their groundbreaking invention.

This idea of iterating rather than originating is applicable not only in the field of aviation but also in various other domains. When faced with a complex problem, it is often more effective to build upon what already works rather than starting from scratch. The interconnectedness of ideas and concepts is often overlooked, and by recognizing this interconnectedness, we can unlock new possibilities for innovation.

Another area where the concept of iteration is relevant is in the realm of management. When individuals transition into managerial roles, they often face unique challenges and must adapt their approach. One common problem that arises is a shift in responsibility from focusing solely on the product to leading and managing a team of individuals. This transition can be challenging as it requires a different skill set and mindset.

One lesson that many managers learn is the importance of giving their team members some freedom. It can be tempting to micromanage and control every aspect of a project, but this approach often stifles creativity and hinders progress. By trusting and empowering the team, managers can foster a culture of innovation and allow individuals to explore new ideas and approaches.

Additionally, the feedback loop for managers is often longer compared to individual contributors. While individual contributors may receive feedback on their work in a matter of days, managers may need to wait months to see the results of their efforts. This can make it difficult to measure one's own value and impact. To overcome this challenge, it is important for managers to find something they do for themselves, not just for their team.

One approach that has proven effective is celebrating every win, no matter how small. Managing people can be a lonely endeavor, and the changes in relationships can be isolating. By finding peers and celebrating wins together, managers can combat this isolation and maintain a sense of camaraderie.

In conclusion, starting from scratch is rarely the best approach when it comes to innovation. Instead, building upon existing ideas and concepts can lead to the most creative and groundbreaking innovations. Whether in the field of aviation or management, recognizing the interconnectedness of ideas and iterating upon what already works is crucial. To foster innovation, managers should empower their teams and celebrate wins together. By embracing these principles, individuals can unlock their creative potential and drive meaningful progress.

Actionable advice:

  • 1. Embrace the interconnectedness of ideas: Look for existing concepts and innovations that can be built upon rather than starting from scratch.
  • 2. Trust and empower your team: Give your team members the freedom to explore new ideas and approaches, fostering a culture of innovation.
  • 3. Celebrate wins together: Find peers and celebrate successes as a group, combating the isolation that can come with managing people.

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