The Coming Innovation Wave

Most of humanity tries hard to predict their futures. The unknown is somewhat frightening. It is natural and reasonable to attempt to reduce risk.  After all, if things are going well, why rock the boat.

Creative Outliers do not necessarily feel that way. It is not that they pursue risk deliberately although some certainly do. It is more that they are curious and creative, and that this combination drives them to try things; often new things.                 

But what happens when situations are untenable? We have all heard the phrase necessity is the mother of invention. And who do you think is doing this invention? More often than not, those who do not fit nicely within the bell curve.

And where do you think innovation comes from? Fearful hand wringing frightened and not very secure people? Innovators come from the ranks of creative outliers. And if innovation can be defined as applied insight, they have more than an idea, they have a prototype or a product that can possibly be adopted. Being a creative outlier may provide for a very interesting life but not usually a fiscally stable one. Here is where innovators differ from creators, they do have some sort of business model in order for their insights to become adopted, they have to first be applied and manifested. 

When a significant number of individuals are extremely dissatisfied, there is a reasonable chance change will be occurring. This coming change is very hard to accurately predict in terms of what and when, but when more than the innovators and creative outliers feel compelled to act due to circumstances, there is a good chance something is going to happen.

This is why there seems to be the potential for an innovation wave. Rich and poor, educated and not, left and right, men and woman, majorities and minorities are ll questioning current circumstances. It seems like also everyone wants change, not all the same changes to be sure. But also not No change either.

This is why it is my opinion that an Innovation Wave is coming. And I offer a plausible explanation of why, how to think about it and what to do.

The combination of an economy crippling global pandemic, declining democracy, and climate change are all riding on a rising mountain caused by psychological and economic tectonic plates moving fairly rapidly toward each other and giving rise to a hybrid future. No society is not going to go back to only in-person interactions and gatherings due to the fact that we are social animals who need to encounter each other for multiple reasons, not the least of which is perpetuating the species. And no society is not going to voluntarily back away from virtual interactions for even more than the obvious iconic reasons. An even larger reason which will ultimately emerge is humanity has just had a taste of transcending geographic proximity. Previously regional concentrations of people produced agricultural society, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution and even the Manhattan Project for it had required people to be geographically proximal in order to collaborate. This is no longer true and it saves not only time and money but is also transcendental by moving us into the realm of ideational proximity at just the same time as there are many dissatisfied with the status quo.

What will happen, I can not predict but certainly something or many things will and we are accelerating toward change. This is not a bad thing as humans are better at adapting than most other things.

On the other hand, we are not very good at all managing innovation in part because it is largely involuntary and therefore there is a significant gap between two important outer populations – decision-makers and innovators. There are ways to better handle the naturally different priorities which can permit and improve collaboration which is more important than it usually is as the stakes are currently high.

We know change is called for but there is a large range of how smoothly to turbulently this can be manifest.

And by the way, I am not offering footnotes, references or citing “experts”. As in this situation “Experts Aren’t”  Yes there are many who claim to be such masters of innovation management, that they have converted it into a science. The last time I checked science required repeatability and measurability and there are no agreed-upon units of innovation without which quantification is not possible.  Innovation is far more qualitative than quantitative.   If you are an innovator you already know this for it resonates with your own personal experience. Innovation Practitioners are not cut from the same cloth as Innovation Scholars.

The real questions relate to, how can creative outliers manage themselves better to shrink the gap between themselves and decision-makers?   The tectonic plate which is about to cause an innovation wave is pushing us all to find out. Stay Tuned.

Private Out Loud Creativity Storm 

Hmm, how can you be private and also out loud? And what is a creativity storm? And what do they have to do with each other?

First, let’s remember that we are intentionally speaking to creative outliers here. And for us, the idea of a creativity storm, I suspect is one most of us are not strangers to. We sometimes have so many ideas at the same that it can be overwhelming but even if it is in a good way and welcome, Creativity Storms can be problematic, for there is all of this good stuff we want to capture, but it is incoming way too fast. 

This is where the notion of journaling comes in as part of a morning practice. If some of you are like me, you may wake up with way too many ideas to be able to process, never mind to make use of. Sometimes this can occur in the middle of the night, inconvenient unless you live alone. A journal is a place where you can be “Private Out Loud”. You can stem the flow of too many ideas by talking to yourself in a journal, privately but still out loud to yourself. Some bits and pieces, and even large ones may end up being public. This is more about having a conversation with yourself both to help sort out the too many ideas and to stem the flow so you can get back to sleep if you want to. Or, to get on with your day without being in the middle of an immobilizing Creativity Storm.

Now, I do not know about the rest of you, but I can not type nearly as fast as I can think. I also can not speak as quickly as I can think either. When in public, this can get you in trouble, because you can speak more quickly than you are evaluating and filtering which can create a mess. Maybe some of you have been there?  Hey, as creative folks sometimes the idea flow is faster than the word flow, and sometimes the word flow can get out of control. These are all aspects of Creativity Storms and good reasons to journal as a regular practice to calm down enough to be civil and intentional. If not, you run the risk of burying those around you with too many ideas. 

Some well-adjusted creative people are well self-managed and prevent themselves from over-communicating or under-communicating. Congratulations, if you are well balanced enough to manage your larger than Bell Curve normal emotional dynamic range.

Essentially, we are proposing storytelling as a therapeutic tool. We all tell ourselves stories. Our journals are examples of private out loud storytelling.  We do know that reality is of greater dimension and velocity than the stories we tell ourselves. We experience life faster than we can type and faster than we can speak. Emotions are way faster than logic! This is why we had to invent storytelling in the first place. 

When a lot of external events impinge upon us, some read, watch or listen to the news, whereas others condense the incoming, to a story they tell. Professionals tend to say they are covering a “fast-breaking” story which allows everyone to pretend that this story is the “truth”. Well, maybe not so much?

When internal events are proceeding at greater velocity and complexity than we can rationally process, there is no channel to tune into to “get the story”. This is where journaling comes in. Whether you find yourself in an emotional storm precipitated by external (the news or others in your life) or internal events (as in a creativity storm), the same simple powerful process can be fantastically effective. Tell a story to yourself – privately and out loud. This does not have to be spoken or sonic. It can be a picture, a diagram, text, longhand or spoken, sung or danced and it can be very helpful to tell the story at least to yourself first.

Telling the story to yourself in general precedes telling the story to others. If you are a creative outlier trying to make a living monetizing your creativity or an innovator getting insights adopted, you are going to have to tell a story. No Story = No Stakeholders! Often you can not make things happen completely by yourself.

So, whether you have one person-size dream or world-changing large-team dreams, or just have to cope with a Creativity Storm, you still need to begin with the story. That story will have to be expressed in a way that is Private Out Loud. 

The More People

Well, let me tell you a story about someone with More. More what you ask? More of almost everything but energy mostly, followed by imagination, followed by a willingness to try new things, and the audacity to believe he might be able to accomplish them. Of course, this was largely contextual for he was born into the fast-moving life lane of New York City and born to parents, one of whom had these exact same More traits and who lived her life according to the same intense More proclivities and the desires they inspired. 

Leaping ahead almost seventy years, this same child now a  man at least in some ways, with More, found the More was unabated and no, he never did quite calm down and become like everyone else, even though he was a little better at seeming to reside within the bell curve. Or perhaps this was an illusion created by the fact that almost everyone he spent time with for those almost seventy years was to some degree just like him. You see this individual with More discovered even you one was, one in a thousand there were another 8 million people on the planet who were also one in a thousand, and that there were also a seemingly infinite number of ways to be one in a thousand or an outlier. This seemed because there were an infinite number of possible bell curves to occupy, to indicate that perhaps everyone was an outlier.

And this provided some solace and some opportunity because exceptionalism can also breed exclusion.  At least exclusion from the bell curve. 

Do you recognize aspects of yourself in this narrative? Do yo too not seem to fit into the “norms” society had to have invented statistics to describe? After all the is what More means – not the average or mean indicated by bell curve dwellers. If you even picked up this book or began reading this blog posting or whatever form you have encountered this story in, then I suspect this state of More may afflict you as well, and I chose the word afflict, because More is both a blessing and a curve, or in eastern parlance an opportunity and a danger. 

This is a story mostly about, and mostly for, creative outliers who are well aware of this state of More and the troubles the can arise from it occasionally causing the More people to wish they had Less in order to better fit in. 

The Hybrid Life

Time to admit and celebrate that we live in a new world. No, we are not going back to the pre-pandemic world and no we are not entirely embracing a virtual digital-only world either. Economics prevents the first, and psychology and biology prevent the second.  

It is a matter of return on investment. For most of us, Trade Shows are going the way of magazines and CD players.  It is simply far less expensive and requires far less effort to telecommute than to hop on a plane and fly across the country to stay in a hotel in order to have a meeting with someone for the first time. We are used to prequalifying in-person meetings with phone calls and now we can prequalify them with zoom or the equivalent. Reading currently breaking information about topics you care about is a lot easier online than buying or subscribing to magazines and newspapers and having even several streaming music subscriptions is far less costly and far easier to manage than buying CDs and records. The business model for the digital version is simply extremely compelling, so no virtual is not going away unless human society truly unravels by some sort of apocalypse.

On the other other hand I like meetings people in person, and I like reading magazines and I like CDs and records. Also psychologically people do need people to socialize with as we are social animals, and then there is the issue of procreation. Biology vs. Economy? Obviously we need both. So neither are going away.

We are all to some degree or another, living hybrid lives where some things we do are online and others are in person. We had better get used to it and be ready for a world with many new business models which take into account the hybrid nature of things.

This impacts creative outliers more than most, for a disproportionate number are either self-employed or part of smaller organizations. None of you are surprised that for most, creativity does not flourish in gigantic organizations. Of course, there are always exceptions.  

Hybrid life impact upon creatives will be largely positive because the overhead associated with creating and launching new initiatives is lower than it has been in generations. It is increasingly easier to start a company or a band or anything else than it has been in years.

It is time to create new business models. It has always been harder to make a living in the arts, than in say engineering, medicine or law and this is in part due to the prevailing business models in these arenas. It is a lot harder to get a gig at Carnegie Hall than at a restaurant, but can cost a lot less and in some ways be a lot easier to launch a virtual concert series. 

Better than either is providing a choice to customer-audiences. If they live nearby and can manage and afford the logistics fine, open the doors. And if they are on the other side of town or the world, then okay accommodate them too. 

Invent hybrid ways to earn a living, to collaborate, to socialize and in short invent your own hybrid life. This is a fantastic opportunity, not something to resist and run away from as we know – resistance is futile!