There is considerable talk about innovation in businesses of all sizes, from startups to multinational public companies. “Innovation” and “innovate” are the most overused words in all departments within companies large and small.

  • Technology teams use it as a goal, as in “to be innovative”
  • Marketing teams use it as a slogan, as in “we are innovative”
  • Sales teams use it as a competitive differentiator, as in “this is the most innovative product”
  • Operation teams use it to promote their goals, as in “innovative efficiencies in the supply chain”
  • human resources uses it to recruit, as in “come work for us… we are an innovative company”
  • Companies pitch they have an “innovative culture” and that “innovation is our primary focus”.


We can’t help but wonder how these companies define innovation? They hire “Chief Innovation Officers” and have “innovation teams,” but who are these people and what do they do? What are their special “innovation” skills, how do they use them, and where did they learn them? Shouldn’t every employee be “Chief Innovation Officers” at their job and use the tools of innovation to advance the company’s goals?

Companies don’t hire “Chief Spelling Officers.” Why do businesses, large and small, treat innovation as though it is a speciality only reserved for a select few?

For most companies, actual innovation is a reclusive goal. Leaders talk about innovation and yet have a hard time practicing it. A huge industry inhabited by innovation consultants abounds where the innovation culture is espoused as though it is a philosophy at best, or a religion at worst. These consultants talk about innovation culture, innovation DNA, and preach that they have the “secret” solution. But we argue, there is no “secret” solution.

Innovation is a natural state of being for every person, young or old. We were all born with the innate ability to innovate, we just either forgot how to or had it educated out of us. The “secret” of innovation is a blueprint built into each of us from birth and is easy to remember:




You may be wondering, “If innovation arises from ideation how do we ideate?” The answer is simple, look at the end of the question in the sentence before this one. Have you ever noticed that a question mark “?” looks like an incomplete lightbulb? The question mark is the universal iconography for ideas; the building blocks of innovation.

Questions are the key to ideation.

I have always loved the word “question” which is derived from the Latin quaestio(n-), from quaerere ‘ask, seek.’ Imagine an idea as a map and questions are the ticket to make the journey of innovation, to “seek” the location of an answer.


Ideation is an internal compass each of us is born with that points us toward solutions. By being curious and asking good questions, we begin on a journey of discovery, seeking solutions to life’s many problems. My whole life I have been blessed to see the world as inherently broken…. incomplete. When you look at the world this way problems are just potentials to fix the world and make it better, and I have created some amazing things using ideation as my compass.

What I have learned being a professional ideator:

  • Everyone is born an ideator.
  • Ideation is a skill that can be relearned.
  • Good ideas are not worthless, just scarce.
  • Executing on bad ideas is VERY expensive.
  • An investment in ideation up front leads to cost savings in innovation overall.

If you want to change the world, you can. You should never be afraid or held back from trying.

How can you create a true innovation culture within your company? What do you think about ideation and innovation? Do you agree with the above or disagree? We would love to hear from you > [email protected] 

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Mike Stemple is founder & CEO at Inspirer and is one of the top ideators in the world. Mike has founded 20+ companies, he is a sponsored endurance athlete, a top-rated mentor and Director-Emeritus at Founder Institute, a mentor at Techstars, a past CO governor appointee, and a proud veteran of the US Army. Mike is considered an expert at ideation, innovation, startups, and brand creation.