It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. This wonderful quote of Leon C. Megginson is still so relevant in this fast changing world. That’s why it’s important for you to be an innovator at work. Developing and launching innovative ideas, concepts, prototypes and business models is essential for the continuity of your firm.

What makes innovation difficult is that a lot of people have to change their convictions and habits before something really new will be deployed. You can invent alone, but you can only innovate teaming up with others in your organization.

The single biggest obstacle at the start of innovation in one word is: no. Successful innovators never accept the following seven no’s.

  1. No, we have done it always this way… Well, our world changes fast. When the rate of change outside is more than what is inside, we can be sure we will have a problem soon. That’s why it’s time to think different now: join me.
  2. No, our customers won’t like that…! Are you sure? Let’s go out there and ask what they think of the new concepts we’ve ideated and organize customer focus groups or test our ideas online.
  3. No, it’s not possible… Well as Dan Brown said: “Everything is possible. The impossible just takes longer.”
  4. No, that’s not logical… Of course it isn’t. If it would be logical and fit our present processes it would not be innovative. LIke Einstein said: “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there will be no hope for it.”
  5. No, there’s no budget… So what! We’ll ‘go underground’ and proceed anyway, using the budget and resources of another project. It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission. [Grace Hopper].
  6. No, management won’t agree… Managers say yes to innovation only if doing nothing is a bigger risk [Gijs van Wulfen]. Pick the right moment.
  7. No, that’s way to risky… You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. [Andre Gide]. Innovation creates uncertainty. Reduce uncertainty with doing pilot projects or independent start-ups.

You should be prepared for ‘the firing squad’ every innovator will meet on his/her way. In my early days in big corporate cultures I felt the resistance of others as a personal attack on my attempt to move the company really forward. I got too excited, too emotional, too upset and at the end of the day I was very disappointed in my company, my colleagues and myself. Then, when rationality came back, I stood up again and made a second attempt. Successful innovators know how to get internal support for innovative ideas, concepts, prototypes and business models. Otherwise nothing happens.

Innovation does not stop at the first ‘No’. That’s the moment it really starts!

Wishing you lots of success on your innovation expeditions.

Note: This article was originally published on

Gijs van Wulfen

Gijs van Wulfen is a recognised authority and keynote speaker on innovation and Design Thinking. He was chosen as one of the first LinkedIn Influencers and as of 2017, 300.000 people across the globe are following his notably engaging, prolific and insightful posts. In 2016 Gijs came number 2 in the international Top 40 Innovation Bloggers. In 2017 his book ‘The Innovation Maze’ was elected ‘Management Book of the Year’. 


Shenzhen Blog Editor