A pilgrim is someone who makes a long and difficult journey. As an inventor and innovator I have definitely found that journey to be a rough and rocky one, that has never gone as planned, and I’ve learned a lot of innovation lessons along the way. And there are definitely innovation lessons companies can learn from the pilgrims.

Journey doesn’t go as planned

For the 102 pilgrims that sailed from England to their new home in America, their journey didn’t go as planned either. To begin with, they arrived about 150 miles north of their destination and eventually ended up at Plymouth.


They faced many hardships, and over half of them wouldn’t survive. But the ones that did used their bootstrapping innovation survival skills to not only survive, but thrive in a foreign land many miles from home.

Innovation lessons

Here are some of the lessons they can teach companies about innovation:

  • Improvise – Innovation is a journey of improvisation. You have to make the most of what you have and be creative. And the pilgrims didn’t have a lot left after their long and grueling journey. The food supplies they had on board, like sugar, spices, butter, olive oil, etc. were running low. Luckily they made friends with Indians who taught them how to grow food.
  • Seek out people with disparate views – The Indian culture was very different from their own and they had a lot to learn from them. Studies show that the more diversified a group is, the more innovative their ideas will be. The group is better able to solve problems because they come at the problem from many different angles.
  • Get everyone to participate – The pilgrims had to all participate and get along for their very survival, no matter what their personality type was. Quite often in an organization you have people who are extroverts, who contribute, sometimes loudly, to the conversation, and others who are hesitant to speak up, even though they may have great ideas. Make it easy for everyone to contribute in different ways. Some people are more willing to write their ideas down, and some people will shout them out. Get all ideas from your employees, no matter what their job title is.