The 177 Myths of Innovation & Creativity: Mega summary

The term Myths of Innovation has become popular on the web, but few articles on the subject link to each other. I wrote the bestselling book, The Myths of Innovation some time ago, but still new articles appear without a single reference to any sources at all. Somehow in all this “innovation” we’ve forgotten basic useful inventions like web searches, links and footnotes to credit what others have done.

On this page I’ve compiled the definitive list of Innovation Myths, referencing every use of the term I’ve been able to find. Many of these articles are broadly written: not based on research into specific legends and inventions. However my hope is providing one place to review and compare popular misconceptions about the subject will help all of us move forward in our thinking.

I came up with the term independently in April of 2002 for a lecture at Microsoft that eventually became the book. I hadn’t heard the term before but in compiling this post the earliest use I found was the 2001 post by Veitch, below.

Also see the companion list: the 177 truths of innovation.

The Complete list of Innovation Myths

1/31/2001 Innovation Myths, Open Future, John Veitch

  • Innovators had happy lives
  • Innovators can succeed alone
  • You must stay positive
  • You can remember everything

6/30/2002, Innovation Survey, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Frank Milton (pub date unverified)

  • Only small/new companies innovate
  • One great idea is all we need
  • It’s better to play safe
  • Innovation is a part-time activity

9/24/2004, The Seven Myths of Innovation, Financial Times, Sawhney/Wolcott

  • You need more new ideas
  • Innovation is a department
  • Let people loose
  • Innovation is a radical departure
  • Mistakes are costly
  • Avoid the detours
  • Innovation is about creating new things

12/1/2004, 6 Myths of Creativity, Fast Company, Bill Breen

  • Creativity comes from creative types
  • Money is a motivator
  • Time pressure fuels creativity
  • Fear forces breakthroughs
  • Competition beats collaboration
  • Streamline organization is a creative organization

12/2005, Innovation myths, Innovate on Purpose, Jeffrey Phillips

  • You can’t manage innovation
  • People won’t use processes
  • There’s no defined process
  • Too much management stifles creativity

2/2006, Excerpt From Innovation Handbook: A Roadmap to Disruptive Growth, Clayton Christensen/Scott Anthony

  • Innovation is all about technology
  • More resources equal more innovation
  • Only a big bang counts as a success
  • Innovation is random and unpredictable
  • You can’t teach people to be more innovative

2/3/2006, Top Ten Innovation Myths, Geoffrey Moore

  • We don’t innovate here no more
  • Product cycles are getting shorter
  • We need a chief innovation officer
  • We need to be more like Google
  • R&D investment indicates innovation commitment
  • Great innovators are usually egotistical mavericks
  • Innovation is inherently disruptive
  • It is good to innovate
  • Innovation is hard
  • When innovation dies, it’s because antibodies kill it

6/13/2006, The Myths About Innovation, The Straits Times, Atul Mathur

  • Innovation is for other industries
  • Innovation is inventing new product
  • Innovation is R&D
  • Innovation is for giants
  • Innovation is optional

6/06/2006Five Innovation Myths,  McKinney / Jim McNerney

  • It’s the solitary genius who is responsible
  • It’s all about technology
  • If it isn’t ‘new to the world’ it’s not innovation
  • Innovation can’t be managed
  • Creativity and discipline are mortal enemies

5/2007The Myths of Innovation (the book) – revised 2010, O’Reilly Media, Scott Berkun

12/10/2008, Myths of Innovation, Industry Week, Jill Jusko

  • Innovation applies to technology and products
  • Innovation is a long term project
  • Innovation happens by chance

7/16/08Seven Myths of Innovation, CyberJournalist

  • Always keep your eye on the ball
  • Failure is not an option
  • Everyone loves an innovator
  • Innovators are problem solvers
  • Knowledge is Power
  • Innovation can be predicted
  • First place always wins

4/09Four Dangerous Myths, American Management Association, Paddy Miller, Spring 2009

  • Creativity should be fun
  • All ideas are good
  • Innovation is Entrepreneurship
  • The Creative Imperative

6/29/09,  Six Myths of Innovation, CIO Insight,  Samuel Greengard

  • Technology drives innovation
  • If you pursue innovation, it will come
  • Innovation results from an outside-in perspective
  • Bad things will happen if you open up your business processes
  • Vendors understand your business and IT better than you do
  • A tight budget stifles innovation.

2/22/2010, Five Damaging Myths about Innovation, Biznik, Jeanne Yocum

  • An innovation can be purchased
  • All we need are some good new ideas
  • I’ll recognize breakthroughs when I see them
  • We just implemented a great idea, we can rest
  • (There was no 5th myth)

12/16/10The 5 Myths of Innovation, Sloan Review MIT (Julian Birkinshaw, Cyril Bouquet and J.-L. Barsoux)

  • Eureka Moment
  • Build it and They Will Come
  • Open Innovation is the Future
  • Pay Is Paramount
  • Bottom Up Innovation is Best

7/20/2010, 4 Myths that get in the way of Innovation, CBS, Margaret Heffernan

  • Innovation involves Quantum Leaps
  • Only Geeks May Apply
  • Innovation Requires off-sites with Geniuses
  • Innovators are a Special Breed

9/14/2010Beware of these Ten Myths about Innovation Business Insider, Martin Zwilling

  • Innovation is all about ideas
  • A great leader never fails at innovation
  • Effective Innovation leaders fight the system
  • Everyone can be an innovator
  • Real innovation happens bottoms-up
  • Innovation can be embedded inside an organization
  • Initiating Innovation requires wholesale change
  • Innovation can only happen in skunk works
  • Innovation is unmanageable chaos
  • Only startups can innovate

3/2011, The 7 Common Myths of Innovation, CEO Refresher, George Chen Ian Pallister

  • Innovation can’t be taught
  • Breakthrough innovation occurs through stroke of genius
  • Innovation is solely the job of R&D
  • Innovation is risky
  • Innovation is about commercializing cutting edge technologies
  • Innovation is expensive
  • Innovation is disruptive and dilutes focus

4/8/2011Dispelling the Myths about Innovation, Formico, Peter Boggis

  • Creativity and Innovation are the same thing
  • Innovation is only relevant for consumer companies
  • “Innovation just happens”
  • Business value if innovation is difficult to measure
  • Innovation requires deep pockets, risk-embracing and bleeding edge technology

10/2011The Innovation Myths, Harvard Business, Scott Anthony

  • Innovation is random
  • Only geniuses can innovate
  • You’re either an innovator or not
  • Innovation happens in the R&D lab
  • We will win with technology
  • Innovation is about improved performace
  • Customer will be a critical source
  • Game changing innovation is done by entrepreneurs
  • We win by targeting big markets
  • Innovation requires big bets

10/28/2011, Myths and realities about Innovation, CNBC, Benjamin Hallen

  • Innovation comes from isolated geniuses
  • Innovation is about a eureka moment
  • Great innovations will be easily recognized

5/12/2011, 10 Myths of Innovation, Jon Gatrell

  • Innovation is all about ideas
  • The great leader never fails
  • Leaders are only fighting the system
  • Everyone can be an innovator
  • Innovation happens organically
  • Can be inside an establish organization
  • Requires wholesale organizational change
  • Innovation can only happen in Skunk Works
  • Innovation is unmanageable chaos
  • Only start-ups can innovate

8/4/2011, Bust Your Innovation Myths, Art Markman

  • We glorify eureka moments
  • We assume legendary stories are true
  • Myths are slanted towards great people and decisive events

9/8/2011, Debunking the Myths of Innovation, Jim Stikeleather, Dell

  • You can’t ask customers what they need
  • Faster, better, cheaper
  • Bringing disruptive innovations is never easy

10/24/2011, Innovation is About Execution, Despite the Myths, Forbes, Martin Zwilling

  • Innovation is all about ideas
  • A great leader never fails
  • Effective innovation leaders are subversives
  • Everyone can be an innovator
  • Real innovation is bottom up
  • Innovation can be embedded in an organization
  • Innovation requires wholesale change
  • Innovation happens in skunk works
  • Innovation is unmanageable chaos
  • Only startups can innovate

11/3/2011Three Myths about Innovation, Jim Stikeleather

  • Successful innovation requires disruptive revolution
  • You have to be creative (egotistical) to be innovative
  • Innovation is expensive

12/19/2011, Relentless Innovation – Debunking the Myths, U. of Texas, Jeffrey Phillips

  •  Some industries seem more innovative than others
  • Fast following innovators can suceed
  • (Mentions The book The Myths of Innovation)

2/24/20115 Myths of Innovation, Haydn Shaugnessy, Forbes

  • It’s all about creativity
  • Innovation is about motivation
  • Innovation is about the user
  • Innovation is about products and services
  • Innovation is good

1/4/2012The Myths of Innovation, James Gardner, Computer Weekly

  • If you invest in something new you have better chances of windfall returns

2/7/2012Debunking 4 myths of innovation, FastCoDesign, Jeffrey Phillips

  • Individual innovative leadership accounts for success
  • Level of industry competition dictates the amount of innovation
  • It’s possible to copy market leaders while retaining  competitive advantage

2/12/2012Five Myths of Innovation,

  • This list is behind a $495 paywall :(

2/20/2013,  7 Myths of Innovation, Fast Bridge

  • It is what we do behind closed doors
  • Innovation just happens
  • We need to reward innovation
  • It is about working harder
  • Real innovation is about adjacent possible
  • You need the best people
  • It’s about selecting the best ideas

4/2/2013 (From the future!)5 Innovation Myths Busted, Flanders, Vladimir Blagojevic

  • Innovation = creativity + ideas
  • Innovation = something new
  • Innovation = great products
  • Validating innovation = fundraise
  • Technical Innovations = scalable and automated

12/5/2015, 6 Myths About Innovation, Stephanie Vozza @ Fast Company

  • Innovation can’t exist in a large established company
  • True Innovation comes from R&D
  • Innovation is driven from the top down
  • Innovation requires perfection
  • It can be impossible to overcome ‘thinkers cramp’
  • Innovation only happens in entrepreneurial organizations

How this list was compiled

I used a series of Google, Yahoo and Bing searches, focusing on different date ranges and permutations on “Myths of Innovation”.  Search engines are better in some ways than when I wrote the book, as more data is now available on the web. I prioritized articles, posts or presentations that used the words Myth and Innovation somewhere in the title, including some that used the terms Myths and Creativity.

Many posts I found are cross-references of the same links, with interviews with authors of books/posts about myths they’d written about elsewhere and I only listed each list once. If you find other items I should add, please leave a comment.

8 Responses to “The 177 Myths of Innovation & Creativity: Mega summary”

  1. Ted Kucklick

    Scott, in 2005 I wrote a chapter in my book The Medical Device R&D Handbook titled “Innovation, Invention, and Creativity or How Thomas Edison Never Changed the World by Creating the Light Bulb. The chapter goes into definitions of innovation, and how people will use terms like art and design, and innovation and invention interchangeably when in fact they mean very different things. BTW I picked up you book Myths of Innovation at a Maker Faire and enjoyed it very much, and mentioned it in two articles I wrote for Medical Design magazine and Bonezone

  2. Nick

    This is great – but what would be even greater is some kind of synthesis into a few core myths, which would mean we could then extrapolate some innovation truths. Do’s are generally more important than dont’s!

  3. Abdullah

    Some ideas are contradictory, that means differrent authors have different opinions about innovation.

  4. Bryan Cassady

    I guess we all need more creative titles… And perhaps some consistency of content :-)

    I really enjoyed your book the Myths of Innovation. If I update my presentation: I will be sure to give you a call out. Our content is different, but I have to admit I was inspired by your title (and the titles of some others like the myths of entrepreneurship)

    Note: if you’d like some facts on Innovation, feel free to checkout my presentation: The Science of Innovation:

    Kind regards,




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