Innovations can come out of the most unexpected places. Understanding its origins can easily be overly simplified into a moment of eureka when inspiration strikes. We don’t see the accumulation of circumstances that led to this moment. We often discount the influence of previous innovations on our outlook. In many cases, the innovation story succumbs to the narrative fallacy where we assign a more significant role to luck than to talent and mindset.
While luck can be an essential ingredient, we must be prepared to recognize and act when opportunity or information presents itself. As Louis Pasteur declared in 1854, “In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind.” It requires one to recognize the importance of what they are seeing but also be open to diverse ideas. We then need to able to make the connections. Additionally, innovation requires curiosity and determination to seek out new information and its application to the problems with which one is facing. Intentionally immersing yourself in a richly stimulating environment is essential to increasing your fortunes of blind luck. Joi Ito, the director of MIT’s Media Lab, summed this up when he wrote “But serendipity is not luck. It is a combination of creating a network and an environment rich with weak ties, a peripheral vision that is "switched on", and an enthusiasm for engagement that attracts and encourages interaction".
Unfortunately, this mindset is not the norm. In a 2013 survey by Deloitte reported only 11% of the U.S. Workforce had the attributes that comprise worker passion. These attributes included:
- Commitment to a domain is the desire to have a lasting increasing impact on a particular industry or function.
- Questing temperament involves seeking challenges to improve their performance.
- Connecting dispositions is to seek out deeper interactions with others and build strong trust-based relationships to gain new insights.
These individuals play an important part of an organization’s innovation capacity. They also enrich the city’s innovation capacity. Two related functions of the innovation ecosystem are to ensure the connection between these individuals and inspire others to embody these qualities. As we will discuss later, a city’s culture and expectation of innovation have a profound impact on the passion and prepared mindset of the individuals comprising the city’s innovation network.