Thursday, January 24, 2013

Innovation consternation

I woke up today thinking to myself that I really should try to figure out how to explain innovation in a way that would make sense to people who do not believe. They do not believe because innovations generally look silly at first, compared to the product that is being looked at in new ways. The established product IS ESTABLISHED, so more people would be rooting for it than for some clumsy prototype that is being tested and proposed.

Many innovations are also geared towards interesting new products, not important ones. The interesting ones are sexy, makes money and brings fame, the important ones change the world, clean the environment, and get rid of world hunger and disease…who cares right? Let someone else who has already achieved fame and fortune sort the important innovations.

We want interesting.

Let’s assume that the new innovator is shameless in his attempt to achieve wealth and fame. Nothing wrong with that. We are all human, and we are allowed to wallow in the baser of human needs for periods of our life. It is fun to be naughty and dirty every now and then, before we spruce ourselves up.

The same set of questions still apply regardless of what you want, to change yourself and your circumstances, or to change the world.

What can I look at in a new way? (Think seeing high heels in a pair of flats)

What can I do differently? (Engage with people at the bottom instead of the people at the top)

What can I use differently? (Use a rolling pin as a hammer…lame!)

What new connections can I make in new contexts with old processes? (Think LinkedIn)

What can I change? (Solar power instead of old liquids from long dead things)

These are only questions that may put you in the right frame of mind, but nobody in their right minds will go around on an innovation quest looking at the world while reciting questions like these. Well, some people might, but weirdness is just a matter of degrees, so more power to them.

Really though…how do we remove this consternation that hits us when we try to innovate? Invariably, the ones closest to us will either call us stupid and wasting time (which is good since that means we are on the right track and they have no idea what we are doing, but they are concerned). They also might say well done and keep up the good work (which means they could not care less and do not want to be bothered).

Then there are also the in-laws and relatives who will wring their hands in despair and say they wish you had never been accepted into the family and disrepute would now befall the family when other relatives, neighbors and the neighborhood grocer gossip and spread the news (good thing) and the same group of people who ask who the hell you are, and when did you enter the family (bad thing).

The point I am making is that you will find yourselves fighting everyone almost, and you will say to yourself, “You just watch out. I will make a billion dollars and then we will see who come begging for friendship. I can say I made it in spite of the people closest to me, not because of them.”

This is the reality of the innovator’s world, and this is the reason why the born-with-us-and-ingrained-in-our-genes-innovator will find it difficult to emerge into the glory awaiting us all. The space around us will make it as difficult as possible, and those who manage to let the innovators in them emerge, are able to do so because they are surrounded by equally whacked innovation thinkers. Which is why communities and countries where innovation lives, will continue to have innovation alive.

What to do, those of us alone in the cold, boring places where our loved ones live in comfort zones kept warmed by stable reputations and bankable properties and investments?

The life of a trailblazer is a lonely one, and you are supposed to be cold and hungry. You are building wealth remember, and cold and hunger keeps you awake longer and keeps the passion burning for you to change your circumstances. Once you are in the money, with a warm fireplace, a maid to bring you grapes and chips one at a time while you are watching P2P downloaded HD movies…why, you will not have time for innovation.

Take comfort in the VUCA idea that chaos is good for you early on, and this will hopefully keep you remembering your roots when times become great, and fame and fortune have found their way to your door. Remember that the true innovator lives to innovate and to have an impact on the world, and all the importance you imagine fame and fortune will have, will vanish when they arrive. The true innovator will find happiness and peace in the continued expressions of innate longings and needs, the same things that are driving your passion and your needs right now.

What else can I say?

Innovation needs consternation inside and a VUCA environment outside. It thrives in people who start off knowing they want change, but have no idea what change they want. It starts off leaving you confused and scared to reveal your dreams and passion to those closest to you, for fear they will label you a fool. It starts off with you daring to risk it all, even the jeers and humiliation of those closest to you…because you are an innovator, and you embody all that the definition means.

I am in a philosophical mood today, because I accomplished a huge milestone in my life last night, and that milestone is a huge innovation for me.

But I am too scared to tell you about that right now.


  1. Come on! What is the milestone!? You cannot leav e us hanging like this!

  2. Yeah! What is the milestone!!!???