The key to innovation

Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 by GTD Times Staff

The key to innovation

is to really care about solving a problem or achieving a result that’s never been done, or a new and better way to make something happen. And persistence. – David Allen

5 Responses to “The key to innovation”

  1. JFC says:


    This amounts to saying, “the key to innovation is caring about it and being persistent”.

    Gee, thanks for the advice.

  2. Chip Joyce says:

    JFC, I think you miss the emphasis, which is to “REALLY care”–“about solving a problem or achieving a result that’s never been done, or a new and better way to make something happen.”

    That’s the trick. Do you REALLY care? Edison REALLY cared about electrical lighting. He had how many thousands of failures to succeed in his innovation. But the reality is that the vast, vast majority of producers–good, heroic, praiseworthy producers–are not innovators. They are improvers. That is not a bad way to make a living, or a fortune.

  3. Jay says:

    Yeah I’m with JFC. This seems like the kind of feel-good advice that I expect GTDers to not really have much use for.

  4. Hi JFC + Jay–

    Please understand that this was really just one small quote taken from a much longer interview David did. We thought it was interesting enough on its own, but perhaps it’s too much out of context to be of value?

    GTD Times Team

  5. John W Lewis says:

    David’s “the key to innovation” expresses some important points about innovation.

    As Chip Joyce has said, it is worth considering on which points an emphasis is being placed when considering the meaning of this message.

    Yes, the “really” does emphasise the strength of caring; but is it the only, or even the main, emphasis? More importantly, what is the caring about and for what purpose?

    The stated purpose is “solving a problem”, “achieving a result”, or “to make something happen”.

    As I read the overall message, the main emphasis seems to be on novelty or newness. Solving a problem carries the implication of newness: the discovery or invention of a new solution. What kind of result is to be achieved? A result that “has never been done” also indicates newness. Finally, how is something to happen? “A new and better way” is clearly not only new, but also better!

    This all rings true with me, as innovation is about novelty, meaning newness.

    Overall, David’s statement seems to me to allocate the emphasis very well.

    Oh, and let’s not forget the importance of “persistence”!


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