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Innovation = Recombination

Courtney Lynch, October 8, 2018


Innovation = Recombination

Recently, I had the luxury of spending three days with Luis Perez-Breva, the Director of the MIT Innovation Teams program. In addition to being an extremely successful entrepreneur who has built and sold multiple companies, he has a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Master’s Degrees in Physics and Engineering. I’m the gal who went to law school because there was no math in the curriculum. So, you can understand how -in many ways- Luis and I are professional opposites. 

That’s why we were brought together. A trusted client of mine thought it would be valuable for a small team of four diverse leaders to come together to identify ways to bring greater innovation to the organization, a Fortune 500 company. He was correct. The learning and results from those three days of collaboration were significant. 

Luis has a gift for teaching complex research in simple, memorable ways. What he impressed upon us was not some secret formula for innovation success. Instead, he shared the reality that powerful innovation is unrecognizable at its genesis, it can only be seen in hindsight. What it most often begins with is recombination. By examining what you have across your organization, team or department (or even your family) in the context of deeply understanding market or stakeholder needs, you can find the path to recombine your strengths in new ways for greater results. 

His insights are helpful for organizations and individuals. What do you do best? What is needed to be done in your world? How can you think and act differently with what you have? 

I’ve recently moved to the U.K. with my family. Ironically, research shows that one of the most powerful experiments innovators can engage in is living and working overseas. Why? Because it immerses you in diverse experiences. You can leverage those experiences to deliver better results for any project or team you are a part of. The adventure has begun with the simple things, underscoring that innovation is not obvious at the start. From driving on the “wrong” side of the road, understanding how to dial numbers on my new phone, and assembling a house full of IKEA furniture– even the most mundane tasks, done in a new environment, offer a challenge. 

My family and I find ourselves recombining our American identities with our new European setting. After just a month in the country, the amazing value of the experience is already most evident in my children. They’ve taken new schools, new sports, and new cuisine very much in stride. They are so open to everything. On the other hand, my husband and I have taken a little longer to find our stride. Yet slowly we are. Our kids are showing us that the more we open our hearts and minds fully to the change, the more fun, joy, and growth we experience. That’s being innovative.

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