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Innovation Through Competition

Whenever people talk to me about innovation, we inevitably discuss how to come up with a new idea.  Most people I have spoken to respond that coming up with a novel and innovative idea depends on being in the “right” environment at the “right” time.  After a little probing, these friends have explained that the “right” environment means accepting, relaxed and creative.

In my studies, I have come to realize something else.  The “right” environment is driven by competition and an interest in being the best.  Last semester, I took a course by Professor Amotz Bar-noy on the analysis of algorithms.  For those that don’t know what that means, we looked at problems and tried to figure out the most efficient ways to solve them.  A lot of the problems we discussed have little to no impact our daily lives, which got me thinking about why we are even looking at the problems.  The answer is simple: trying to find the most efficient solution forced us to look at the problem from every angle.

To me, the combination of looking for the most efficient solution with the pressure of many people trying to get there first pushes new ideas. I guess my question is, how do we get that combination and foster the “right” environment?  Of course, if you are in a competitive field, there are always people trying to get there faster.  Not everyone has that luxury.  In corporate settings, I can’t imagine pitting people against each other, that would promote a very closed communication system and a lot of office politics.

I believe that we can achieve greatness if we are pushed to get there! So the only question is, what’s the best way to push?

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