Innovation vs. Necessity


I’m very happy to welcome my good friend Jim Seybert to my Blog today. He always has good advice.

In the summer of 2009 a prospective client rocked the foundation of my then 8-year old consulting practice when he said this about my proposal to facilitate an executive brainstorming retreat:

“Jim, everyone knows you’re the new idea guru. I get that. But right now I don’t need to think outside the box, I need to keep the lights on.”

He didn’t buy my services, but – worse than that – I bought into his perception that innovation was a luxury, affordable only when there was extra budget and plans for growth.

The truth is exactly the opposite. When faced with the need to spin gold from straw or squeeze water from a rock, the answer will never be found in doing the same thing you’ve been doing. If your current business model, product, service or ministry has run aground, you will only be able to break free by backing up and doing something differently.

Human beings are creatures of habit. When stuck, our tendency is to do more of the same – only louder, or faster, or bigger, or sooner, or cheaper. And that works to a certain degree, usually in areas where we should have been doing it anyway. But real relief and long-lasting results are only possible when we accept the funny truism generally attributed to Albert Einstien about the definition of insanity being application of the same effort in pursuit of a different result.

So the first step to thinking outside the box, is to admit the need to do so. The next is to realize that past success can be a detriment to the process. I call this The Paradox of Success. The more success you’ve enjoyed, the harder it is to change. If what you did yesterday worked well, it’s difficult to think about not doing it again. Yesterday’s successful ideas become something of a lucky shirt. You’re afraid to wash it for fear the magic might go away.

One book that might be helpful is Seth Godin’s THE DIP. You might want to pick up a copy. It is fairly short, but it may take you a long time to read because you’ll do a lot of thinking along the way.

Next time I’ll share some simple exercises that have been helpful in opening doors for new ideas for some of my clients.


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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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