“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand” – Einstein
When someone writes a biography, they are not only tasked with mapping out the events in a person’s life. A good biographer ponders the connections in life, and tries to recreate an authentic story. Walter Isaacson has spent a fair amount of his life immersed in the minds of geniuses. He has written books on Einstein, Franklin, Kissinger and Jobs, so when he says that we’re abusing the word ‘innovation,’ I am partial to hearing him out.
Innovation is something of a 21st century catch-cry, explains Isaacson in an interview on Salon.com. Products are marketed as innovative. Tech geniuses are described as innovators. Governments pump money into encouraging businesses to innovate. Just browse the number of book titles on the topic - there are many people trying to work out the formula for innovation success!
To grasp Isaacson’s key thread, innovation is often muddled as something that germinates in the mind of a genius before being brought to life in a dank garage. It’s something we think other people do. But in reality, it’s a collaborative process. Innovation requires visionary ideas that are executed with style.
Isaacson’s upcoming book The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, is all about the execution. Genius isn’t enough. Execution is everything. And to change the world through innovation, you need a team.
As Isaacson says: “I think sometimes we underestimate … or sometimes we don’t fully appreciate the importance of collaborative creativity. So my book is not a theoretical book, but it’s just a history of the collaborations and teamwork that led to the computer, the Internet, the transistor, the microchip, Wikipedia, Google and other innovations.”
The Innovators is out in October. Put it on your list.