Innovation is Human

by Braden Kelley

Innovation is Human

In many ways organizations are like humans, and others have described organizations and organizational change in biological terms before. But this biological context applies to innovation as well, and I’d like to put it forward quickly in simple terms.

As humans we must eat to survive, but if we focus too much on eating, we get unhealthy.

If we don’t focus enough on eating or if we eat the wrong things, we get unhealthy.

If we don’t enjoy enough variety in our experiences, we get unhealthy.

If we don’t spend enough time synthesizing those new experiences to uncover insights via sleep, we get unhealthy.

If we don’t eliminate our waste, we get unhealthy.

And finally, and probably most important to our health, we must exercise to increase our strength, flexibility, agility, reduce our stress levels, to build new capabilities, and to increase our longevity.

But, you can exercise too much, and get unhealthy as well.

The key is balance.

And the same is true for organizations, and parallels for all of these human activities can be drawn to the activities of organizations as well.

And while our interactions with food can be compared to our focus on the day to day operations within the context of the organization, the pursuit of innovation is the exercise for the organization.

And in much the same way that many people resist exercise even though they know it is good for them, many organizations do as well.

But for organizations to stay fit and enjoy a long and productive life, they must strike that balance between a healthy diet and exercise.

So, is your organization going to be fit or fat?

And next time someone in your organization says that innovation isn’t important, or that they can’t focus on it right now, ask them if they think exercise is important, then remind them that innovation like exercise is how we reinvigorate our organizations and keep them vibrant and alive, and go find yourself a carrot stick.

Keep innovating!

Innovation Starts Here

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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, builds sustainable innovation cultures, and tools for creating successful change. He is the author of the five-star book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire and the creator of a revolutionary new Change Planning Toolkit™ coming soon. Follow him on Twitter (@innovate) and Linkedin.


  1. Interesting analogies… It’s funny, but when I read the title “Innovation is Human”–I thought of the fact that innovation really comes from the people inside the organization. Often we look at the action that a company should (or should not) take as the entity that generates innovation. Innovation is an organizational function. Creativity, on the other hand, is in an individual/personal function. Innovation (organizational) is really a creative idea (personal/individual) that got implemented (again, an organizational function). Again–great analogy in your article!

  2. Completely agreed, fundamental stuff makes all the difference, people just go too fancy on with creativity techniques etc while their brain is probably working at 60% capacity.

    Once the above is fixed I would add “time to wander around”.
    To provide a tangible example, I used to come-up with about 10-20 ideas for my blog per week.
    Now I’m starting to work earlier, listening to podcast, my quiet time is gone. That leads currently to 5-10 ideas per month.

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