Rowan Gibson wrote a book called “The Four Lenses of Innovation: A Power Tool for Creating Thinking”.

This is a book well worth obtaining and working through. Why? Well, it provides an understanding of the thinking patterns that lead innovators to their big ideas. By emulating these thinking patterns, Rowan suggests you can really teach people the skills to improve all of our creative abilities for idea generation and imaginative problem-solving.

The book promises to unlock our brainpower and enhance our innovation capacity, resulting in real value for our investment.

The main idea of the books is that in order to succeed, we must adopt the right mental perspectives and view the world through various lenses. This is especially important when facing challenges or problems. By studying the worldview of innovators, we can learn to recognize opportunities and think in new ways.

The author believes that every person has the ability to generate ideas and creatively solve problems, but the challenge lies in awakening those innate abilities. Our educational system often discourages creative thinking and imposes external limitations on our learning, testing, and responses. As we transition into work environments, corporate culture can further stifle our creative sides, discouraging risk-taking and experimentation, causing many people to simply shut down and focus on their job duties.

In addition, we face internal obstacles in our thought processes. One such obstacle is known as "functional fixedness," which is a mental barrier that restricts our comprehension and leads us to use objects in familiar ways only. We fall into "set patterns" and find it increasingly challenging to break free from them, despite our best efforts. Overcoming this requires structure, practice, and guidance. It can also take a significant amount of time to break old habits and thinking patterns before we can see things from a new perspective.

Innovation through the Four Lenses approach

The Four Lenses is a guide to help you understand and perceive objects and situations from a fresh perspective. It teaches you to break away from preconceived patterns in your mind, allowing you to identify new patterns and uncover exciting opportunities that may have previously gone unnoticed.

Rowan has researched the characteristics of creative genius and organized his book around four specific perspectives or thinking patterns that comprise these characteristics.

1. Challenging Orthodoxies

What is this lens about?

Questioning deeply entrenched beliefs and assumptions and exploring new and highly unconventional answers.

How can it be applied to innovation?

The chapter on "Challenging Orthodoxies" begins with a reference to Steve Jobs and his famous "Think Different" campaign for Apple. The author quotes Jobs's memorable line about "the crazy ones, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones that see things differently, the rebels, the troublemakers." This quote encourages readers to embrace a contrarian mindset and challenge the status quo. The book celebrates those who dare to think differently and challenge conventional thinking.

2. Harnessing Trends

What is this lens about?

Recognizing the future potential of emerging developments and using these trends to open up new opportunities.

How can it be applied to innovation?

In the chapter titled "Harnessing Trends," you learn how to embrace change and use it to your advantage. Rather than making far-off predictions, you develop the skill of identifying and utilizing the potential of existing changes that others have yet to notice. As Martha Graham once said, innovators are not ahead of their time, but rather are a product of their time while others lag behind. It's all about picking up on the signals and improving your ability to read them.

3. Leveraging Resources

What is this lens about?

Understanding our limitless capacity for redeploying skills and assets in new ways, combinations or contexts.

How can it be applied to innovation?

The Leveraging Resources lens is asking how we can utilize our skills, core competencies, and strategic assets to create new growth opportunities. We need to think outside the box and explore ways to repurpose, redeploy, or recombine what we already have. How can we tap into our existing capabilities and expand our business beyond its current limitations? The challenge lies in identifying our unique strengths and combining them with those of other companies to develop innovative solutions that customers will appreciate. As Andrew Hargadon explains in his book "How Breakthroughs Happen," innovation involves breaking down and reassembling these elements in fresh ways.

4. Understanding Needs

What is this lens about?

Paying attention to issues and frustrations others have ignored and experimenting with new solutions to problems.

How can it be applied to innovation?

To understand your customers' needs, it's important to ask yourself how well you know their unsolved problems, unmet needs, and desires. Radical innovators have a keen eye for identifying these deep customer needs and using them to create new business opportunities. They are often more empathetic than others, putting themselves in the customer's shoes to understand their perspective. By designing solutions from the customer's point of view, they focus on creating value for the consumer.


By working through the Four Lenses, you'll gain a powerful tool for recognizing, rethinking, and reinventing patterns. These lenses will help you reawaken, amplify, and extend your innate creativity – both as an individual and as part of a team. And with this heightened creativity, you'll be able to catalyze your innovation efforts like never before.

Your mind is constantly making new connections between your existing thoughts, ideas, and experiences. By doing so, it creates new patterns and insights that can shift our perspective in significant ways. This process begins by seeking out new insights, which serve as the raw materials for developing big ideas.

The Four Lenses of Innovation can provide genuine value for you if you take the time to read, absorb, experiment, and apply its principles to your own innovation thinking needs. This approach may help you become a better innovator, which is something we all strive to achieve.

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