conversations self destonation new way of looking at

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“More isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just more.”

 

Barbara Benedek

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“Our company?

 

We have a change the world attitude. We don’t mind being disruptive as long as it is with the intent to create something new and better.  Smart disruption displaces the conventional and replaces it with an unconventional way to do things that actually meets what people want, need and expect.

 

We call what we are doing ‘shaking the category etch a sketch.’

 

Visions should be lofty and grounded.

Simple yet reflective of a complex world.

Pragmatic & practical yet not the status quo.”

 

—–

 

Bruce McTague

 

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Ok.

 

I must get trapped in dozens of discussions & debates over innovative ideas, do not make new things make things betterdisruptive ideas and what is “new.”

 

And thanks to Yale and some guy named Loewy  I have a tendency to toss around two phrases a shitload in the conversations — “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable” and optimal newness.

 

 

<note: <a> ‘optimal newness’ is a relatively new phrase which i have appropriated to replace some of my less eloquent phrases saying the same thought, <b> I have used ‘most advanced yet acceptable’ as a thought for years as it was offered to us by  ‘the father of industrial design’, Loewy, in the 1950’s but more recently highlighted in an Atlantic article>

 

I pull these phrases out of my thought bag of tricks because invariably these “let’s talk about new ideas” conversations get squeezed between two extreme bookends and the phrases help to unsqueeze the thinking.

 

One bookend is the highly caffeinated entrepreneurial ‘disruptors’ who are convinced they have an idea that no one has ever seen or done before and want to present it as “the coolest thing you have never seen before.”

 

The other bookend is the pragmatic risk averse “change agent” who proudly presents the same widget which was once painted taupe and is now painted flat black as “new, improved and contemporary.”

 

By the way.

 

These bookends actually have names: neophilia, a curiosity about new things; and neophobia, a fear of anything too new.

 

This conversational tug of war is a reflection of the basic human truth that we love, and actively seek, familiarity <safeness>… uhm … as well as the thrill of discovery <risk>.

 

We do this with … well … everything.

 

Therefore we are almost always torn, slightly or a lot, by these two opposing thoughts.

 

This is the thinking that led that guy, Loewy, to articulate his industrial design attitude as “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable.”

see something wow new idea no way

 

 

He believed to sell something surprising, make it familiar; and to sell something familiar, make it surprising.

 

This thought is important.

 

It is important because while an idea can, conservatively, die 101 different ways 2 of the most likely ways to die is <a> you have a surprising, possibly truly disruptive idea, and your inclination it is to make it look spectacularly surprisingly different – therefore scaring the shit out of most people and they do not attach themselves to it, and <b> you have a spectacularly unspectacular useful idea and … well … you undersell it because it is difficult to articulate beyond the familiarity – therefore boring everyone into believing it is not worthy of a ‘new’ label.

 

And before you beat the crap out of me on all of this The Atlantic article offers a nice proof point to ponder:

 

In 2014, a team of researchers from Harvard University and Northeastern University wanted to know exactly what sorts of proposals were most likely to win funding from prestigious institutions such as the National Institutes of Health—safely familiar proposals, or extremely novel ones?

They prepared about 150 research proposals and gave each one a novelty score. Then they recruited 142 world-class scientists to evaluate the projects.

 

The most-novel proposals got the worst ratings. Exceedingly familiar proposals fared a bit better, but they still received low scores. “Everyone dislikes novelty,” Karim Lakhani, a co-author, explained to me, and “experts tend to be overcritical of proposals in their own domain.” The highest evaluation scores went to submissions that were deemed slightly new.

 

I shared this research to show that even the dullest deserves some surprise & novelty while “new” has some limits when trying to communicate the pragmatic <both of which are important with regard to … well … almost everything>.

 

That said.

 

I think the real point here is that you need to find the sweet spot … that there is price and valuean “optimal newness” for ideas or, well, how about we call it “advanced yet acceptable”.

 

So why do we always have this struggle?

 

Well … in business the challenge seems to be the business world has put an incredibly high value on <perceived> innovation & disruption and a lesser, if not nonexistent, value on <real> functionality & highly pragmatic thinking & ideas.

 

This out of whack valuation steers some business people to some extremely shallow misguided thinking and hollow ideation.

 

Nowhere is this found more often than when discussing “disruptive ideas” and innovation … which are the two “phases that pay” when we talk about new.

 

We use these words to imply this idea will change the world <and more often than not it is just a nice idea which will make an impact in its own little universe … assuming it doesn’t die a quick death>, therefore, it becomes the only type of idea we should pay attention to.

not scottish it is crap

 

 

In other words … if it’s not disruptive, its crap.

 

 

Well.

 

That’s bullshit.

 

The truth is that many, if not most, of the most foundational ‘innovative’ or new ideas the world has ever seen tend to be the most overlooked, unseen to the naked eye, unobtrusive ‘disruptors’ we have ever interacted with.

 

The truth is that most effective useful disruptive ideas are almost always leveraging off of something existing. You may turn everything upside down … but you are still using some existing pieces <some existing attitudes & behavior as well a ‘things’> from which your idea will end up tapping into.

 

I say that with two thoughts in mind:

 

  • something from nothing equals the same thing as nothing from nothing … nothing.

 

  • smart, or intelligent, disrupting is always about something from something.

 

Ponder them <not too much because it will make your head hurt> … but everyone should keep these two thoughts in mind whenever seeking optimal newness – you cannot create something from nothing.

 

Anyway.

 

In today’s business world “new” and “disruptive” are inextricably linked.

 

This is a shame.

 

It does not benefit either concept or idea to do this.

 

New is … well … new. No more and no less <although there are certainly degrees of new>.

connect attention value business listen speakDisruption actually means ‘to challenge.’ And, despite what many want you to believe, disruption is actually about creating something … not simply to destroy something.

 

I would actually suggest that disruption, at its core, is about changing the way you think – creating new ways to think about something.

 

Think about it.

Conventions train us to do the conventional.

I say that because accepted beliefs <conventional thinking>, where everyone is thinking the same, usually means no one is really thinking.

 

Therefore, constructing new accepted beliefs may not mean destroying the old, the familiar, but rather creating a new way of thinking and creating a new familiar.

 

All this becomes important as you consider what would be “optimal newness.”

 

Because as we wander aimlessly between the hyperbole of disruptive and new … well … many new ideas are simply a fresh derivative of ‘familiarity.’

 

I say this to make a point.

 

Optimal newness, 95% of the time, leverages some familiarity … something existing … and it is grounded in some reality that people can grasp.

 

new idea light up think disrupt draw up

Therein lies a truth “optimal newness” never loses sight of.

 

The biggest ideas with the biggest end impact on our lives typically have gained some momentum not because they were some huge ‘new, never seen before’ idea but rather because the innovated on some conventional thinking and shifted us into some different way of thinking about something.

 

Maybe we should think about it this way … if today’s innovators have been successful … have seen farther than others before … it is because they have stood on the shoulders of giants … well … maybe stood on the shoulders of something that already existed.

 

Regardless.

 

I read somewhere in one of those bullshit pop psychology pieces that confident people are better than most people at seeking out small victories … they don’t necessarily need “big” ideas or maniacally pursue being called a ‘disruptor’ as they pursue success.

 

I tend to believe confidence can reside in comfort within ‘optimal newness.’

That the confident business people know that newness doesn’t have to be splashy nor hyperbole driven but rather surprising functionality.

 

And maybe that is the larger point with regard to ‘optimal newness’ and ‘most advanced yet acceptable.’ In business these days we seem to either believe “go big or go home” and therefore either overplay our hand or completely underplay it <because it isn’t big enough>.

 

Just think about that last thought as you ponder the last dozen good ideas you have seen die before your eyes.

 

flawed and still worthy optimal new people bestI will end by stating, unequivocally, that this is easier to write about then to put into practice.

 

Shit.

 

Finding the ‘optimal’ anything in business is hard.

 

All I know is that every time I have this discussion with a sales group talking about selling, an innovations group talking about articulating an innovation or even a CEO about ‘organizational change management’ I get a lot of cocked heads  as they think about it a little.

 

That’s got to count for something.

 

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Written by Bruce