I’ve never been big on New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t find them very motivating and apparently I’m not alone, judging by the number of people who crowd into my health club in January who are gone by April. Resolutions just don’t stick with me. So I’ve been musing about finding an innovative way to practice this tradition. The answer I’ve come up with: Instead of a New Year’s Resolution, why not a New Year’s Vision?
Niccolo Machiavelli wrote, “There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new order of things.” He was talking about politics and government but it applies equally well to any new venture. It is the universal experience of everyone who has ever tried: It’s not going to go exactly like you think it will. You will have to make adjustments.
“There are no atheists in fox holes,” the old saw goes. It’s an assertion that no doubt offends atheists, who I assume hold their beliefs with the same conviction as anyone else. I have a similar observation to make about innovation (one that I don’t think will offend anyone): There are no unbelievers among innovators.
We don’t yet understand the inner workings of our brains well enough to guide the prescribe of innovation processes and techniques. But we do understand what attitudes, assumptions and beliefs are productive and counterproductive. And that may be even more useful.
We should honor our inventors and perhaps we don’t do that enough, but having an original idea is just one early step toward successful innovation. We rightly and very pragmatically withhold our thanks and praise until we can see a clear benefit...
We hear a lot these days about mass customization as a consumer trend, about how technology now allows us to mass produce products that are customized to the needs and desires of individual consumers. So, why stop with consumer products? To fuel innovation, we need to be talking about mass customization...of people.
What have you concluded is impossible? Are you sure? How do you know? Maybe it’s just something that hasn’t yet been figured out. (And maybe you’re getting close.)
What’s your personal theory of knowledge? Is it something that gives you answers or possibilities? Of course, the short answer is, “Yes.” But if you had to choose, if you had to state a preference, I suspect you could, and for many it would be: answers. Not that most of us have given this a great deal of thought. It’s what’s known as an implicit theory, a largely subconscious belief, but one that nonetheless impacts how we think and behave—and how well we innovate.
With the passing of Steve Jobs and with it recent reminders of how not only bright and creative, but arrogant and obnoxious he could be, I got to thinking: Why are great innovators at times so insufferable?
Under Steve Jobs, Apple became what by almost all accounts has been the most successfully innovative company in the world. Now Apple faces what may be an even more daunting challenge: continuing with that innovation success without Steve Jobs. Isn’t that innovation’s Holy Grail? Isn’t that what the whole field of innovation is trying to figure out: how to build an organization that can produce the kind of success of an Apple…without having a world class genius at the helm? I have some hunches as to how...