We know that lightning strikes the earth about 100 times each second. We even know that nearly 70% of lightning occurs over land in the tropics where the atmospheric convection is greatest. But we still don’t know where or when it will happen. We don’t know what the results of each strike will be.

Perhaps this is why the term ‘brainstorm’ is used – to suggest creating the ideal conditions for ideas and innovations and ideas to strike. Sometimes the best way to describe how an idea comes to mind is that it just appears in a flash of brilliance.

Like lightning; Innovation does not follow rules of predictability. It is unpredictable, inconsistent, risky, and often unrefined. We understand many of the elements needed for innovation, but cannot mechanize it.

In society, we are surrounded by norms of conformity – highways, traffic signals, and paved sidewalks. These policies, and procedures are designed to deliver predictable and consistent results that can be managed; not necessarily be the most efficient or direct route.

Too many businesses treat innovation as a temporary disruption. The flash of lightning and boom of thunder might wake you from a deep sleep, or capture your awe temporarily, but only for a moment. Then it is back to the routine. Over time, this changes the atmospheric conditions that minimizes the likelihood of innovation and predictably grinds the company into nothingness.

If you want to build a culture of innovation; start thinking about the footpath below. It wasn’t ‘placed’ there like the sidewalk was. It evolved there.

Worn path

Make simple evolutionary changes – a personal expression or interpretation of the norms that is different, yet not enough to attract too much attention all at once. Build momentum. This path likely started as just a subtle depression in the grass. As more feet traveled, it wore the grass completely, but was narrow. Then it became wider and more pronounced as even more people use it.

Before long, the new way is just as established as the old way (though not set in concrete) and is able to handle greater traffic loads while delivering more efficiencies. Then it is on to finding the next evolution.