I've been engaged in an interesting conversation on Twitter this morning on the value of tools in the innovation process.
What makes conversations online (and thus on Twitter) so interesting, is that the positions are usually black versus white. "I'm right. You're wrong." It's hard to get a lot of subtlety into a 140 character post. Especially if you want to throw a few hash tags on the end.
In response to the question "If we reduce innovation to a set of tools, do we kill it?"
My answer was simply, "Yes."
This of course led to responses (mostly sellers of innovation tools) that argued tools were an essential part of the process.
Of course, they're right. You can't build a house without a hammer. But if you want to build an architecturally significant house, you need a great plan.
In any endeavor the magic comes not just from having the tools and knowing how to use them. It's the vision behind the project that make their application special.
Every artist can mix paint and put a brush to a canvas, but it took the genius of da Vinci to create the Mona Lisa.
Every programmer knows how to code an app, but it took the twisted vision of Peter Vesterbacka to create Angry Birds.
Every blogger can use a computer, but few attract the daily readership of Seth Godin.
It takes more than tools and talent to create a masterpiece. It starts with a vision. A mindset. A mission. That's what separated Apple from Dell. That's what drove Google past Yahoo! Unfortunately, that's what's lacking in most innovation programs today.