Comics and Innovation

 
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Stan Lee, the creator of many of the most iconic characters of the 20th century passed away last week. While some may consider comic books low-brow—most notably Bill Maher this week criticizing comic book fans by arguing, “Donald Trump could only get elected in a country that thinks comic books are important” — they are an extremely relatable storytelling medium. Stan Lee and his comics gave people the kind of stories they wanted which is why Disney has had so much success with Marvel.

Comics can also be an effective innovation tool. With comics, people expect that the current bounds of what is and is not possible to go out the window. Super powers? No problem. This is an important mindset to be in when ideating creative solutions to important business problems. Breaking the bounds of current reality are exactly what is required to move beyond current thinking.

The Lowebot serves as a in-store helper in many California stores.   Credit:    Lowe's

The Lowebot serves as a in-store helper in many California stores.

Credit: Lowe's

Moreover, comics are able to convey ideas in a simple and easy to digest format. When it comes to circulating innovation concepts throughout an organization, this is an extremely important asset. Many ideas simply die off because they cannot be effectively communicated through layers of decision makers within an organization. The illustrated cell format of a comic is perfect for getting an idea at a glance.

One example of a company that has gone all in on comics for innovation is Lowe’s. Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Lab, implemented comic books as a way to advance innovation within the organization for exactly the reasons above – new thinking and simplified storytelling. As he says, “To do something different, you have to do something different, which is difficult when you're a large organization that is driven by executing and efficiency. That's what retailers do very well. For us, thinking outside of the proverbial box is really important… We convey complex things to people in story form shorthand. When you get into these big organizations, no one uses story really. What passes for story is at best a chronicle series of events — that's not a story. That's an assembly diagram."

 
Greg VanderPol