Our Perspectives


We need to get better at "killing our darlings"

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"The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up", painting by J. M. W. Turner, 1838.

In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on innovation in development practice.

Reading James Whitehead’s post on the best ways to be innovative, I found myself nodding to most of his reflections. Particularly: ”I want to be working with people who are passionate about solving problems at scale rather than magpies obsessed with finding shiny new innovative solutions.” Yet, I felt something more needed to be said.

The well-known side of innovation is the creative one. We identify novel ways of doing business, co-create new ideas with the end-users, and test them. The flip side of innovation is to discontinue practices for which we do not have sufficient evidence of impact or that are no longer relevant.

It is not about technological progress per se but the readiness and ability to identify what works, what doesn’t, and to stop doing what should not be done. A colleague from our team likes to emphasize that “innovation is also about constantly killing your darlings.”

Geoff Mulgan illustrated this point in a presentation a few years ago with the 1838 Turner painting of ‘The Fighting Temeraire.’ It depicts a battleship towed into harbor by a new steam-powered tug, to be broken up for scrap. It served well in previous wars but with the advent of new technologies, its time has come.

Read the full post on the Oxfam blog.

This post was a response to a post by James Whitehead (Global Innovation Advisor, Oxfam), published on 24 June 2015 on Oxfam's blog From Poverty to Power.

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