Have A Lot
We normally think of success as being static. That is, once we achieve it, we can relax. Climb the mountain and then boast. We’re set for life.
Recent history tells a different story, though. Fortune 500 companies today may very well be failures tomorrow, especially in today’s shape-shifting market place, suggesting that success needs to be revisited and renewed regularly.
Several Ted Talk specialists share examples of these failures, and successes, and ideas on why it happens and how to avoid one and insure the other.
Only Doing More Of The Same
Knut Haaneas, in his Ted Talk: Two Reasons Companies Fail, shares the example of Facit, one of the world’s most successful manufacturers of mechanical calculators, as proof that success does not inoculate against failure. Facit went from the top of the chart in calculator sales to failure almost “overnight” because they didn’t take the electronic age of calculation seriously.
Instead of innovating, in Knut’s words:
They only did more of the same.
Proving that success can be quite mercurial.
Immunity Is The Way Forward
Martin Reeves, in his Ted Talk: How To Build A Business That Lasts 100 Years, draws an analogy between businesses that last and the human immune system. The same six qualities systemic to human immunity: Redundancy, Diversity, Modularity, Adaptation, Prudence and Embeddedness; are needed in businesses to insure longevity.
These qualities breed innovation and enable companies to endure the storms of change.
Working In The Blind
But innovation has no map.
It involves doing things that neither we nor anyone else has done before. And as Martin pointed out, that’s what the human system does daily. When confronted by unexpected, never before seen infectious organisms, it builds a completely retooled set of biological soldiers to fight back.
That’s what innovation looks like. There’s no planning ahead or additional resources procured. Innovation is a radical response to unexpected problems.
Linda Hill in her Ted Talk: How To Manage For Collective Creativity, quotes one leader who makes a very curious observation. The leader, whose name was not provided said:
Linda, I don’t read books on leadership. All they do is make me feel bad. In the first chapter they say I’m supposed to create a vision. But if I’m trying to do something that’s truly new, I have no answers. I don’t know what direction we’re going in and I’m not even sure I know how to figure out how to get there. (minute 11:28)
In other words, innovation is aiming at a future with shadows. Discerning the times isn’t the same as seeing the pathway clearly.
Innovation In The Bible
The Bible never mentions innovation specifically but the New Testament is nothing if not innovative. That’s why we call it the New Testament. It didn’t destroy the Old Testament but it definitely changed everything going forward. There isn’t enough space in one post, or several, to list all the ways the New Testament innovated on the Old.
The Old Testament is still the foundation but the New Testament built a completely unforeseeable structure on that foundation.
Paul’s Ted-Talk Mentality
Paul never recorded a Ted Talk but he did have some very interesting things to say about change – a synonym of innovation. He encouraged it and the following quote demonstrates just how strong his stance on the issue was:
Put off concerning the former conversation (way of life) the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind. 24 And put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Granted, the wording is very different to the vernacular of most Ted Talks but the differences may be more semantic than real. Holy (hagios in the Greek), for example, means separation and has both a positive and negative side.
In other words, we are avoiding some things so we can be more dedicated to other, more useful things. But the words Holy and Separation are often perceived in a negative light because religion’s most prominent quality is a prohibition mentality: Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Don’t go there. Don’t say this.
Avoiding some things is important but it means nothing if it doesn’t free us up to engage in things that are positive, useful and more constructive. Avoiding a bad thing has limited value if it isn’t accompanied by appropriate Do’s: Do these things. Be this. Think that.
It’s like my friend’s fishing knife. Everyone in his family knows which knife that is. They also know that that particular knife is to be used only for fishing. It is not to be used in any other way. It’s holy. It’s set aside, assigned to a specific use. What makes the knife significant is the use to which is it dedicated, fishing, not the ones from which it is prohibited.
The truth is it isn’t holiness without both and the most important part of the issue is the positive side: separate to something. Doing something as opposed to not doing something.
Here is the question. What is the difference between the word holiness when understood correctly and the word focused as we use it in discussions about improving our lives or our businesses?
Separation has both a moral and a practical perspective. On the practical side, we experiment. We try one approach to see if it works. If it doesn’t, we separate and try another. In a word, innovation.
Innovation, Immunity And Translucence
Knut talked about innovating to stay in step with technology.
Martin drew from one of the world’s oldest biological sciences – immunology – to illustrate innovation in action.
Linda made it clear that innovation is going where we haven’t been before. It’s new, uncharted territory, which means we can’t see exactly where we are going or exactly what we’re going to do.
But these changes, the ones that involve questions and answers we don’t yet have, are the important ones.
Innovation and change happen more efficiently when we are focused (separated to) the correct purposes.
The point is, maybe Paul wasn’t saying anything different to what we say today. Maybe he was way ahead of his time and we are only beginning to figure that out now.
It’s All About Growth
It’s an obvious deduction. Innovation and growth aren’t exactly the same, but one can’t happen without the other, We grow because we innovate. We innovate because we grow.
So, the question is, not are you innovating, but are you growing? Following are five indicators of growth:
- Not knowledge but reflection.
Knowledge is like a took box. Information is contained in the box and, like tools, is useful only when applied to solving problems.
Some people have large boxes of information but never use it to solve problems. They show off. It becomes their security blanket.
They don’t realize that the more information they have, the more answerable they become.
Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
- Not ability but skill.
Skill is what we gain when we work hard at developing the abilities we have. The you use your tools, the more skill you develop. Gold medals are won by people with skill.
- Not wealth but prudence.
Wealth is gained and maintained by prudence. Poor people by prudence increase wealth. Wealthy people without prudence become poor.
- Not power but usefulness.
Jacob Zuma gained the top political position in South Africa, but instead acting like a democratically elected president, he acted like a king who has far less power than a president. He consumed the privilege of power rather than employ it to benefit his people. Not very useful.
- Not interest but investment.
Jim Collins tells the story that a respected advisor, John Gardner one day said to Jim:
It occurs to me Jim that you spend too much time trying to be interesting. Why don’t you invest more time being interested?
And it’s true. One way people attempt to stand out is to be clever, to be most interesting person in the room. As it turns out, everyone else is attempting to do the same and are more likely to be upset with your win than riveted. It’s a poor way to connect. To do that, you’ll have to be interested in the ideas and motivations of other.
But it doesn’t stop there. Once you’ve established yourself as interested you must then become invested.
Are you innovating? Are you growing? Are you continuously succeeding?