[This piece was inspired by & co-written with my BBF (big brain friend) Keith Knapp - @kknapp.]
Picture waves, currents, and boats. Some waves/currents are big and some boats are big; commensurately, some waves/currents are small and some boats are also small. The big boats navigate the small waves & minor currents relatively easy – and stay the course – while the smaller boats may feel the water as choppy and are forced to make changes in direction more often. When the water isn't too choppy, and the undercurrents are minimal or known, the larger boats can usually get from Point A to Point B more efficiently, while the smaller boats may have to expend more energy as they travel with the changing currents. Conversely, as major undercurrents begin to change the larger boats have a more difficult time tracking those changes until those changes are physically impacting their ability to sail smoothly; whereas the smaller boats, which by design are closer to the undercurrents, can feel or “sense” the major changes in direction sooner and can make adjustments sooner. Therefore, travel from Point A to Point B in the most efficient manner is highly dependent on the size of the vessel and the environment in which it operates.
Now the big question: Is the big ship considered innovative when it starts to use a new tool that allows it to track the changes in the undercurrents sooner? Consider this before answering:
The bottom line is that we feel that the term innovation is being overused; whether it is during strategy sessions or within goal documents, the fact is that innovation, real innovation is very, very hard. Organizations should instead be shifting the thinking away from lofty innovation goals and spend more energy toward delivering incremental, achievable - a.k.a. evolutionary - changes in their business models. To be clear we’re not advocating that organizations should stop pursuing BHAGs; we’re saying that huge, game-changing ideas should be pursued but not at the expense of quickly adopting market-driven evolutions.
While our proposal may seem like semantics - given that sometimes the “best” innovation is often described in terms of being linear and iterative - changing the dialogue from “go innovate” to “go evolve”, while subtle, can represent a very powerful mindshift.
1. “Think like Zuck” by E.Walter
Other thought nuggets:
So, what else?
During my brief stint as an adjunct professor many years ago, I recall that half of my students had dreams of one day starting their own business. One of my favorite parts of the teaching night was when I presented a random idea and asked the students to put on the brainstorm lens - "what else could you do with this...". Most of the time we would end up in the realm of the zany. Sometimes, however, we would actually land on something achievable and plant the seed. This is an homage to ideas - zany or otherwise.