Innovation is about value, not change

darwins-homology-theory-by-catherine-lafferty

Anyone can create value once.

Spot a need. Fill the need. BOOM, we’ve created value.

The problem is: it never lasts.

The value of a product or service – always erodes over time, because the act of creating value changes the environment.

It might be that we’re creating value cheaper and more effectively than someone else, so they start doing it our way. Now we have competition – and they’ve undercut us too – just to say thanks.

It might be that people’s expectations rise with the value we create. What once was valuable is now the new norm, so the perceived value has dropped.

This is why we innovate.

Innovation is about nurturing and growing the value we deliver.

And because this process often involves some degree of newness and change – people get confused.

They believe that all change is innovation.

That we “do innovation” by changing things.

But change is just a byproduct of the pursuit of value.

It’s a means, not an end.

To grow the value of something, we often have to change it. But not all change adds value, so not all change is innovation.

If we want to innovate – then we need to focus on what drives the value.

It will probably also involve change, but by following the value, it will only change as much as is strictly necessary.

Change which drives value, is innovation.

Change for its own sake, is a waste of time and money.

If you want full power to the engines: drop your shields

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When we’re being sincere and authentic, we’ve got access to all our most powerful functions.

Authenticity allows our truest feelings and intentions to come to the front and have the benefit of our full focus and attention.

But this focus and power comes at the expense of our defences.

When we’re authentic and sincere, our shields are down. We’ve put all our energy into the engines and we’re not draining our batteries by powering defensive systems concerned with worrying about what others will think.

We can certainly feel exposed when we do this, but it comes with 2 massive upsides:

  1. We get the primary benefit of the authentic action. Authenticity springs from purpose, so when we’re being authentic and sincere, we’re fulfilling a purpose. And there is huge value in this.
  2. The more we operate in this mode, the more we realise just how unnecessary the shields are in the first place. The more authentic we are, the more we see that nothing that our shields appear to stop, can actually harm us anyway.

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
– Marcus Aurelius

“We do not recognize any injury that does not harm virtue. If I deserve these names there is no insult, it is justice; if I don’t deserve them, it is he who does the injustice that deserves to blush. Where is the insult? That I am bald or have weak eyes or thin legs? Can it be an insult to be told what is evident?”

– Seneca

Both Marcus Aurelius and Seneca illustrate how much of the injury we experience comes from our “sense” of being hurt. That we can only be harmed by others when we chose to feel harmed – when we acknowledge that they have done us harm.

So turn your your shields off and power your engines up.

Don’t worry about what the others think, they won’t be able to catch you anyway.

Ants and expectations

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One of the most resounding and enduring features of life, is that it refuses to conform to our expectations.

We generate these feelings about how the world “should” be, and the world just looks at us and says, “that’s nice dear, but here’s how it actually is.”

The weird thing is, that we tend to look at this state of affairs and think there’s something wrong with the world. That we’re right to have the expectations and the world is wrong to conform.

But this thinking only survives on our scale, in our own head.

Imagine an ant which wants to get from A to B.

On its journey, it discovers that some pesky humans have built a house in the way, so the ant thinks “this house shouldn’t be here”.

Chances are, you’re thinking “deal with it ant, the house ain’t moving just because you don’t like it”.

The house wasn’t built as a personal affront to the ant.

It wasn’t built to block the ant’s way, or ruin the ant’s life – even if it’s done both. The house – and those who built it, are completely indifferent to the ant.

When we are upset that the world doesn’t conform to our expectations, we are ants complaining about houses.

This doesn’t mean we can’t change the world, just that there’s no value in fighting it with our expectations.

Why goals lift us out of the mud

gunners-of-the-2nd-heavy-anti-aircraft-regiment-rca-pushing-a-3-7-inch-anti-aircraft-gun-through-mudImagine you’re trudging through a muddy field.

It’s up to your knees; the mud is sucking at your feet, every step forward is a battle; the wind and rain are lashing your exposed face and body.

It’s a miserable experience and you’ve got at least another 8 hours of this before you get where you’re going.

By all accounts, you’re having a pretty shitty time of it, and it’s not going to get better any time soon.

But while the current situation might be objectively cold, wet, miserable and hard – there’s no requirement for you to feel bad about it if you’re working towards a good enough goal.

How you feel about trudging across the field is going to depend on what you’re telling yourself about WHY you’re doing it.

If all you can think about is the field itself, then you’re in for miserable time. The road will be slow, the effort will be immense and the experience will be unnecessarily painful.

But if you can keep your eye on the prize, if the goal is meaningful, then it can transform the experience.

Meaningful goals put our current experience within a bigger, more meaningful context and this can drastically change our perspective of the here and now.

Suddenly we’re not just trudging though the mud, we’re going home to our family. Each step gets us closer, so each step now has great value.

If we’re in training, then each step makes us stronger and gives us more of an edge against our competitors.

If we’re making art, then each step, no matter how painful, becomes an expression of our work, a mechanism for our message.

But if we haven’t taken the time to give ourselves a meaningful goal, then guess what? We’re just trudging through a muddy field.

Calm in the storm

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When a crisis hits and your body is flooded with adrenaline, the immediate impulse is for action.

“Something is not right, therefore something must be done” screams your brain, desperate to translate the panic it feels into action.

This can be helpful in situations which are measured in seconds or minutes.

But most crises are measured in hours or days.

Most crises require at least a degree of waiting.

They demand calm:

  • to properly understand the situation
  • to asses the relevant options
  • to weigh the risks
  • to plot the best way forward

All of these activities are nigh-on-impossible in a state of panicked action.

When a crisis hits, sometimes the best option is to take a moment to let the adrenaline go and allow calm to assert itself again.

For situations measured in hours or days, calm is gold dust and panic is a lead weight.