Hello, and welcome to summer! The trees are frolicking, the animals are shining, the sun is clear and fully chlorinated, and everywhere is the smell of freshly mown barbecue sauce. It’s a beautiful time of year – and what more beautiful way to celebrate the arrival of summer than with a new keynote!
“A new keynote?” you say, possibly while drooling a little in frenzied anticipation. “Please, tell me more!”
Well I’ll do just that, since otherwise this would be a very short newsletter. “Hey all, welcome to summer, I’m going tanning for 12 weeks, goodbye!”
Anyway, the new keynote (which is so new that I don’t have a video for it yet) is going to address innovation in a less terrifying way than that subject usually gets treated. I’ve heard a lot of innovation speakers and TED talks and all that, and I’ve gotten a little annoyed at the way that topic is often presented. I don’t know if this is true for you, but most of what I hear goes something like this:
STANDARD INNOVATION KEYNOTE: (imagine this being spoken in a loud voice, maybe with smoke effects and images of the Apocalypse)
“EVERYTHING YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW IS ABOUT TO BECOME OBSOLETE! IF YOU DON’T COME UP WITH SOME MASSIVE, WORLD-CHANGING IDEAS RIGHT NOW, YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS WILL SOON SHRIVEL UP AND DIE!!!!! Thanks for listening!”
For myself, I’ve never found fear to be an especially powerful motivator, and I don’t like the way innovation is often presented as the special province of a few select geniuses. So I’m going to attempt to simplify the concept – and of course make fun of a lot of things along the way.
I don’t have room to tell you everything I’ll be talking about, but I would like you to know a few of the key points that I think will make the notion of innovating (whether personally or professionally) a less daunting task than you might currently think it is. So here are a couple teasers from the new keynote:
The Next Big Thing Is a Really, Really Small Thing
Innovation speakers always talk about ‘the next Google’ or ‘the next Facebook.’ Well you know what? ‘The next Google’ is two people in a garage. ‘The next Facebook’ is a college kid playing with a computer in a badly-furnished dorm room. These things didn’t start amazing; they became amazing over a lot of time. Your next innovation will do the exact same thing. Which means you don’t need to come up with something massive right now. You need to think of something curious, interesting, or otherwise worth paying attention to. Only then will you be able to figure out if that thing has significant potential.
All Innovation Starts With a Question
Think of any product, idea, or brilliant business strategy you’ve ever heard, and I guarantee that every one of them begins the same way. “What if we did ______?” The first step in every innovation is coming up with a question that presents a problem you want to solve, or an opportunity you want to exploit. And you know what? All of us can come up with questions. If you don’t believe, talk to a two-year old. That’s all they do.
The Secret Ingredient is Thinking
That’s it. It’s often presented as something more complicated than that. But it’s not. After you’ve come up with your question, just….think about it for a while. A lot of your thoughts will end up going nowhere, and that’s both fine and normal. But if you think about something for long enough, you will eventually come up with some good ideas. Every problem you’ve ever solved in your own life was solved exactly like this, and it’s true for every problem you will ever face in the future as well.
Like I said, there will be more, but right now it’s too pretty outside for me to keep writing. So I shall leave you with the knowledge that I am going to spend the rest of the day trying to come up with an innovative solution for raising a glass to my mouth without having to endure the tedium of actually lifting it myself.
Oh wait. Someone already thought of that. It’s called a beer hat. And it is glorious.
Have a great summer!