Debunking 10 Myths of Innovation

In my recent article in the GIA Reader, I challenge some false ideas about innovation, and dispel rumors about its demise.

Building a resilient sector

I’m pleased to share my article featured in this past fall’s Grantmakers in the Arts Reader, “Building a Resilient Sector: An Attempt to Debunk Myths around Innovation and Identify How Grantmakers Can Support Adaptive Change.”

In this essay, I try to bust some false myths about the idea of innovation and dispel rumors of its demise. I propose that organizational innovation is the means by which organizations undertake essential adaptive work, and that innovation is a newly emerging, organization-wide discipline, the most far-reaching new set of capacities arts organizations can learn, and the most powerful new discipline to enter our field since the advent of strategic planning in the 1970s.

The 10 myths I attempt to debunk in this article include:

  1. Innovation is a grantmaking fad and only relevant for some organizations.
  2. Innovation is primarily about sexy new products.
  3. Innovation means adding a new engagement program, or whatever.
  4. We can innovate using our current structures and staffing.
  5. Worthwhile innovations will take off in the field through replicating specific new programs or products.
  6. New money alone will deliver innovation.
  7. We’ll get there if we focus on best practices and make use of some technical assistance.
  8. Conflicts around vision, goals, and direction should be minimized.
  9. We can innovate by gathering our usual suspects to do some brainstorming.
  10. We are too fragile, and there’s too much at stake for us to take these risks.

Myths such as these make it harder to separate emerging patterns of the future from the familiar practices we know so well. By dispelling these false ideas, many more organizations can navigate the uncharted waters ahead.

To read the full article, click through the reader above, or download the full PDF here.

Richard Evans is the President Emeritus of EmcArts, where he directs program design, research, and strategic partnerships that place a particular emphasis on innovation, adaptive organization change, and effective ways that the arts and culture field can respond to the demands of a new era.