“The human condition can almost be summed up in the observation that, whereas all experiences are of the past, all decisions are about the future.
It is the great task of human knowledge to bridge this gap and to find those patterns in the past which can be projected into the future as realistic images.”
Kenneth E. Boulding
“Sureness will always elude you.
The detective will always circle around what he wants, never seeing it whole.
We do not go on despite this. We go on because of it.”
We business folk talk a shitload about innovation. Shit. Even I have written some bullshit about ‘innovation being the lifeblood of any ongoing business’ <in my defense I may actually have anchored that thought by suggesting “restless thinking” itself is the lifeblood of any ongoing business>.
Innovation is one of those broadly defined words which people grab onto whenever they want to sound … well … like they are representing some fresh thinking <versus the old way of doing things>. And while that may be so innovation is significantly different between an entrepreneur and an established company. Well. they may be the same in intent but they tend to have different challenges in order to reach the intent.
I have said it before and I will say it again <and again> that innovation whether you are an entrepreneur, a start up or an existing business is very very <very> rarely associated with anything ‘outside some box’ but rather assessing, evaluating, analyzing that which is WITHIN the box in an unconventional way.
It is mostly about looking at the patterns and things of the past and project out to some envisioned future state.
And, inevitably, while we blab about innovations and innovators we start creating some weird perception that innovators are some different people who live somewhere outside of whatever box the rest of us live in therefore can see shit we cannot see. In this alternative business universe to be an innovator you must naturally be a disruptor.
It’s crazy. And … well … it is wrong.
Here is a business truth.
The great thinkers and innovators live right inside the same box as the rest of us. They see the same shit as we do. They do not necessarily take more risks than we do and they do not seem to embrace chaos very well.
The best business problem solvers are not innovators nor do they invest a lot of energy discussing innovation.
They understand the proper roles of experiences, they don’t make trite statements like “if we don’t look to the past we are doomed to make the same mistake” and they do their creative thinking inherently.
While it may not be popular to state … they are simply a different type of enabler. They enable what could be to … well … be.
And while there is another weird perception that they are mad scientists who dream up insanely imaginative ideas … I would suggest:
- They know what they’re doing.
- They know how they’re doing it.
- They know why they’re doing it.
They are not making shit up. They are not finding anything outside of any box. They simply use what exists in a different way.
But they don’t necessarily call it innovation. In fact … many of these people get confused when it is called innovation. To them it is simply grasping the patterns of the past, recognizing the experiences that matter, and deciding that something that should be done that … well … matters.
The whole idea of being called some “Innovator” often confuses them because to them it is simply aligning information and ideas that matter. Innovation sometimes confuses them because they simply see it as enabling past learnings & patterns to come to Life <just in a different way to you & I>.
<You can typically uncover the ‘innovation posers’ by the fact they call themselves ‘out of the box thinkers’ and call the thinking they do ‘innovative>
They also have an innate ability to see outwards, to see what could be and, yet, question what is yet to be.
And the good ones?
Their ideas are never really in some clear ‘that’s impossible’ space … they all have at least a glimmer of ‘possible’ somewhere within. I imagine this is so because there is always something of ‘patterns of the past’ inherent in their so-called innovative idea. There is always a healthy aspect of enabling some aspect of the status quo or ‘what there is to work with.’
But you know what they all have in common?
Some good experience and an innate ability to make some decisions based off of some relatively disparate information <most of the information reflects what is existing>. In other words … they are really really good at asking the inevitable and ‘oft-asked’ question in business … what must be true to make it work?”
“Failing to strengthen an idea by throwing tough questions at it is a disservice to the idea itself. The key question is “what must be true for that to work?”
It’s a powerful question that quickly separates high-potential ideas from the blizzard of distracting ideas that can result in lost traction.
Ideas are not treated as precious pearls to be polished but as sparks born of friction.”
“There are so many good ideas that get thrown out for being “too unrealistic” when, in reality, they might just need some tweaking and a little creative thinking to give them legs to stand on. If the idea is good enough and will deliver excellent ROI in the end, it might be worth a little extra time, effort and money up front.
So, sit down with that “too-big” or “we can’t do that” idea and give it a chance. Write down all the things that need to be true for it to work; then, tackle those things one at a time until you have a sound, realistic frame for your concept.”
The Garage Group
I imagine one of my most important points today is that innovative ideas are more likely to come from people we may think of traditionally as ‘enablers’ rather than some disruptive jerks running around trying to set the world on fire. And if you think about that <and maybe try and believe it> … well … think about the most basic enablers in your life.
- Do you know the name of the person who picks up your trash?
- Do you know the name of the person who stocks the shelves at the supermarket?
- Do you know the name of the person who made the bowl you put your cheerios in this morning?
These are the semi silent majority of enablers in our world. And while we far <far> too often take for granted the labor which keeps the world running we absolutely ignore these people as possible ‘disruptors.’
Enablers play an important role in the ecosystem of … well … things. Just google this thought and you will get a bunch of semi-intellectual writings on the ecosystem of how things are done and created and the role of enablers <versus “Engagers, Enhancers, and Embedders”> in the world of things.
It is a little embarrassing to see how we so easily slot people into some space.
And while I do believe some people are inherently better at thinking and critical decision making I do not believe that there are ‘innovators’ and ‘enablers.’
We certainly need “maintainers” to keep the world going and stuff appearing on shelves for us to buy and to make shit for us to use … but that doesn’t mean they are not also capable of ‘innovating.’ To me … enablers, maintainers and disruptors are all 99% the same.
Not everyone wants to assume the innovator or a disruptor mantle but that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of contributing. And I also do not believe it is wrong to believe your Life “dream” is a steady typical hour workday, with a reasonable commute, making enough to afford a home, food, healthcare, education for their kids and a little more to have some small luxuries … in other words … okay with not being rich, but not okay with being poor. In other words … slotting yourself into some self accepted ‘enabler’ status.
Each plays their role to enable the world to actually work properly and enable ideas to flourish & leaders to do their gig successfully.
And you know what?
Each enabler, whatever their specific skill & experience is, will always circle around what he wants, never seeing it whole. We do not go on despite this. We go on because of it.
The world is enamored by ‘leaders’ and ‘disruptors’ and whatever seemingly unconventional thing is out there. But what if we stopped being enamored by ‘out of the box’ crap thinking and simply suggested all of those milling around inside the box will enable that which needs to be done and will create that which will be done <implementing & ideation>. If we do that then … well … it kind of seems like we have the experience on hand to decide what makes the world work and ultimately reject the crappy things that just clog up the engine.
I get tired of all the disruption and innovation talk. And I can honestly say I have worked with maybe the best packaged goods innovation team in the world and have certainly worked with some of the best, most talented & smartest, ‘disruptive thinking’ people in the world.
What I can unequivocally say is that the best forward thinking ideas, startups/entrepreneurs/large company portfolio thinking, has all come from experienced thinking and not amateurish pie-in-the-sky thinking. The ideas are grounded in some ‘new view’ of existing patterns and a pragmatic view of unconventional thinking. And none of the ideas were outside of any box but a fresh way of creating something people want from things inside the box.
While I love young people and their minds and thinking … the best idea come with experience. That doesn’t mean that everyone with experience actually does come up with ideas … just that experience enables the best ideas.
And it is quite possible that experience enables you to navigate the ‘unsureness’ and permits you to go on despite it.
And everyone is an enabler. Don’t forget that thought.
Mostly because the best of the best so-called innovators most typically see themselves not as innovators … just people who are enabling what could, and should, be.