Lessons in innovation from the movie Interstellar

interstellar poster

It’s always fun to review the greatest movie moments of the year.   I’m sure you’ve seen one of the many movie mashups for 2014. One of my favourite movies this year was Interstellar. I went into the theatre without reading any previews or spoilers, and left the cinema a little mind blown by the creativity, suspense, and fantastic storytelling of the film that held me captivated for its entire 169 minutes.

Being an innovation enthusiast, I came across a great article on unexpected lessons in innovation from Interstellar. In the article, Fard Johnmar highlights 4 lessons in innovation from the movie. Innovation requires Diversity, Passion, Imagination, and a bit of Luck.

These are definitely true – Innovation requires open minds, personal passion, and expansive thinking.  However, innovation is not all about fun and creativity and letting your mind run wild. It also requires a lot of hard work and dedication to make them happen.  I’m going to add 3 more innovation lessons I picked up that ring true in the movie Interstellar (stop now if you haven’t watched the movie yet, spoilers ahead!).

1. Innovation requires aligning personal motives and having a common goal.

In the movie, the team who went up into space each had different motives for going.  Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) wanted a better future for his children.  Amelia (Anne Hathaway) wanted to see Edmunds again.  Beyond these personal agendas, they were united with a common goal to save earth from it’s fate.

In a lot of ways, the members of your innovation project team may have their own personal hopes, aspirations, and agendas of what they want to achieve from a project (such as getting a promotion, protecting brand share, leaving a legacy, or meeting targets).  They need to be united by a compelling and clear common vision to drive them forward in one direction.

2. Innovation requires dedication and continuous iteration to improve and push ideas through

In the movie, Professor John Brand dedicates his life trying to solve the equation that will enable NASA to launch its massive space stations via gravity, but concludes it cannot be solved.  It was only when Murphy reexamines Brand’s equation that she discovers it could work with additional data from a black hole’s singularity.

From what I’ve seen in most innovation projects, having initial ideas is the easy part.  The more challenging part is to keep building early ideas, and pushing them forward with momentum through various stage gates, winning buy in from stakeholders, and keeping them alive as you continuously improve them.  The first idea you have may have promise, but it needs to be protected, refined, and given time to grow before it becomes a fully fleshed out idea that is successful.

3. Innovation requires sacrifice and taking risks

In Interstellar, Cooper has to make a very difficult decision to leave his children behind to join the mission, not knowing whether he will see them again.  This sacrifice was vital for any hope to find a solution to save earth from its destitute future.

Similarly, for innovation to succeed, risks often have to be taken.  Whether it’s giving up on an easier, ‘quick win’ opportunity, or reallocating budget from current cash cows to push your innovation forward, there is always a risk that your innovation may fail, but without taking the risk, it will never appear in the market, and you will never know whether it works or not.

To all the innovators out there who live these lessons day in and day out, we salute you!  Here’s to an even more innovative 2015.

antedote is a strategic insights and innovation consultancy based in San Francisco, and we have helped many of the world’s leading brands like Pepsico and Unilever to garner deeper insights about their consumers and identify opportunities to grow their brands. 

To learn more about antedote’s latest tools for innovation, please click below for a free demo:

Learn more

One comment

  1. Fard Johnmar

    on

    Reply

    Great additions to my list! Thanks for reading (and being inspired by) my article. Happy New Year!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *