Do it because you can’t not do it

Innovators are often labelled ‘idealists’. Against overwhelming odds – tilting at the heavily defended battlements of scientific management theory – they persist in pushing the boundaries, probing for breakthroughs with little thanks. Why? “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion,” wrote German philosopher, Friedrich Hegel, one of the founders of European idealism. Prolific innovation blogger and speaker, Mitch Ditkoff, says those who try to explain innovators’ drive in corporate terms usually fail to understand why they do what they do. “In my experience, the origin of innovation is fascination – the state of being intensely interested in something,” Ditkoff says. “Enchanted. Captivated. Spellbound. Absorbed.” As Daniel Pink explores in Drive, the quest for mastery is a powerful intrinsic motivation. Mastery is a learning mindset, Pink says, and an exercise in perseverance for something you may never fully realise. “But it’s also a source of allure,” he adds. “Why not reach for it? In the end, mastery attracts precisely because mastery eludes.” University of Queensland innovation researcher, Tim Kastelle, agrees. “Successful innovators innovate because they have to,” Kastelle says. “They have an idea and they must see it become real. Or they see a problem and they can’t rest until it’s fixed.” Sometimes they get so caught up in the excitement that, like the cartoon character, Wile E Coyote, they run right off the cliff. “Sometimes, you’ll discover you have a parachute,” Kastelle says. “Other (times), you’ll crash like Wile E Coyote. Wile E Coyote’s problem isn’t that he falls. His problem is that he doesn’t learn from it.”

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