I was reading the other day about Antonio Egas Moniz, a Portuguese neurologist, who in 1935 invented the lobotomy. In 1936 Walter Freeman brought the procedure to the US where he performed lobotomies for just over 30 years. Freeman used an actual ice-pick, which he would hammer through the corner of the eye socket using a mallet, to sever connections in the brain’s prefrontal lobe. Can you believe this procedure was carried out in the US in the 1960’s and all without any anaesthesia!

I think we would all acknowledge that best practices change, yet often when our own practices are challenged, we’re blindly resistant to exploring other options. In consultancy work I often hear phrases like “but this is how I was taught to do it when I was trained”. These sorts of comments are often made without any consideration for the fact that training took place twenty or thirty years ago!

To me, rebellion is pushing against convention without the desire to find a better alternative; the focus is against convention. On the other hand, innovation is the driving desire to find a new improved process which may involve pushing against convention. The motivations are very different.

True innovators are very few and far between and I’ve often wondered what causes some people to act on their incredible ideas while others do nothing and take their ideas to the grave. Below are three of the reasons I believe prevent most people from being innovators.


When inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison tried over 6,000 types of plant growths before finding that carbonized cotton thread was the best substance to use as a filament.

Innovation doesn’t usually come easily, but great innovators are incredibly persistent and are happy to take the time to try many options. They accept that finding answers may take time. In today’s world we are incredibly impatient, and I believe this is a big barrier to innovation.


Edison wrote, “The electric light has caused me the greatest amount of study and has required the most elaborate experiments. I was never myself discouraged, or inclined to be hopeless of success. I cannot say the same for all my associates.”

Have you ever been quoted the old adage “if at first you don’t succeed, then try and try again”? Most people are happy to try maybe two or three times but not indefinitely. Discouragement can set in quickly and derail the quest for innovation. Too many of us perceive failure as an inditement on our abilities rather than an inevitable part of the process.


Innovators inevitably attract criticism. I’m sure Edison was told he was crazy on more than one occasion. I’m sure some of his associates were telling him to give up. Innovators have ideas that are ahead of their time. I’ve witnessed people be harshly criticised for their ideas and be dismissed as foolish, only to see those ideas embraced as the norm five or ten years later. Innovators need to be resilient and have a lot of self-confidence. For most people, being liked by their peers is more important than standing strong on new ideas or convictions and a little bit of criticism is enough to put an end to a trend-bucking idea. 

I believe we all have innovation within us, but we don’t all have the resilience, patience and strength it takes to see that innovation come to fruition. Be challenged today to push through the resistance and bring forth something great!

Here are some questions to ask yourself;

  • Am I open to new ideas or is my reflex reaction to be resistant?
  • When was the last time I came up with an idea that could be a solution to a problem that frustrates me in the workplace?

Consultant Trainer



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