Collaboration, Insight, Application
Dr. Michael W. Howard is President and CEO of the Electric Power Research Institute.
At first glance, the essentials of innovation may appear relatively straightforward: combine a genius, a laboratory, and enough money to make a good start. My generation came of age reading about Thomas Edison's Menlo Park and the AT&T Bell Laboratory. The digital natives' generation has been inspired by similar stories of Hewlett and Packard's backyard garage — today a museum and historical landmark near EPRI's headquarters in Palo Alto, California. Steve Jobs came to personify innovation at Apple. How many people today actually remember when it was called Apple Computer, Inc.?
These make for great stories of explosive innovation. Although in Edison's earliest going, he created more explosions than innovations in his pursuit to find the next best lightbulb. In quick succession, his family forced him to move his experiments from his bedroom to the basement to a sidetracked railroad baggage car.
Even as we acknowledge the persistent disruptive geniuses developing the next great innovations, we also look more broadly among diverse people, fields of investigation, and perspectives. Our experience at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) emphasizes the importance of diversity. Using this broad perspective, I offer the following as three essentials of innovation, while certainly acknowledging there are others.