Innovation insights from the masters of creativity: Ada Lovelace

In this innovation insights blog series, we explore what innovation teams can learn from some of history’s most creative characters. This week, we take a close look at Ada Lovelace.

Hugo Lakin
by Hugo Lakin
innovation insights

Today, the word innovation is almost inseparably tied to the digital revolution and our complete dependence on computing technologies to operate our businesses. All our innovation strategies are built around or using these fundamental technologies. However, computing itself is simply another innovation, born from a series of creative masters that strove for excellence.

At the very heart of this society of digital innovators is Ada Lovelace – widely recognised as the world’s first computer programmer and a true innovator. She took an existing technology – Babbage’s Analytical Engine – and saw past its material features to build new capabilities which permanently changed the history of technology.

Lovelace’s legacy was forged through her unique understanding of creativity. She had an extraordinary ability to “see past” the existent into new potentials. Let’s take a closer look at how she did it.

Poetical science

Lovelace’s mother – Lady Byron – was adamant that her daughter would not grow up to be a poet like her father. As a result, she tutored her almost exclusively in mathematics. Ironically, however, it was Lovelace’s poetic imagination, combined with her mathematical brilliance, that enabled her to see the deeper potential in her colleagues’ work.

Lovelace often dwelled on the nature of imagination and conceived of reaching potential of the creative process. She described it as “conceiving & bringing into mental presences that which is far away, or invisible, or which in short does not exist within our physical & conscious cognisance…It is that which feels & discovers what is, the real which we see not, which exists not for our senses”.

Vision engineering is an inextricable part of the creative process and one that gives direction to your innovation programmes. By giving your team the time and space they need to create imaginative visions for your business, no matter how far-fetched they might seem, you lay the groundwork for previously unexplored innovations.

Key takeaway: Here’s a great exercise for you and your team. Imagine that your business is a fictional one brought to life in the pages of a science fiction novel. You have almost unlimited resources to play with; how does your organisation look now? What’s the perfect system for delivering your product or service? How does your business model function in a technological utopia? These questions will help to steer your company towards a genuine vision for the future.

Points in common

“It is the Combining Faculty. It brings together things, facts, ideas, conceptions, in new, original, endless, ever varying, Combinations. It seizes points in common, between subjects having no very apparent connexion, & hence seldom or never brought into juxtaposition.”

Lovelace’s sentiments here about combination being the heart of creativity are echoed by many of the great innovators in this series. Here at Idea Drop, we’ve also spent a lot of time championing the value of blending disparate ideas to create something new.

However, Lovelace here adds a new perspective to this dynamic by focussing on the points that two unrelated ideas may have in common. This is next-level thinking about how elements can be combined in the fray of innovation. No matter how unrelated two ideas might be, if you look close enough, there are always paths to draw that connect them. These commonalities can then become the basis for innovative ideas.

Key takeaway: Commonality is perhaps the best place to start when it comes to understanding and integrating new ideas into your business. Pick a new business, technology or concept that you’ve been learning about and make a list of things it has in common with your business. You will find that even totally disparate things may be formed around similar principles, giving you a greater degree of insight into your business’ innovative capabilities.

If you’d like to learn more about forging a powerful innovation culture in your workplace, drop us a question in the chat box below. Our team is always on hand to discuss new ways to inspire and support your team.

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