Innovation makes the world go round! If we do not innovate new products, new services, new information, new experiences— our businesses will not keep developing, growing, progressing, and succeeding financially. Businesses must innovate. Bill Gates, Business At the Speed of Thought, noted that every product at Microsoft will be redundant in three years. Three years and the business has nothing to sell that anyone would want! How about that for pressure!
Back in the 1950s Abraham Maslow was recognized as one of the foremost thinkers, developers in the field of Creativity. And why not? By then he had been modeling for over a decade self-actualizing people and noting how they were so innately creative and how they were the ones actualizing new ideas into products, services, businesses, etc. In doing so, Maslow sorted out primary and secondary creativity and distinguished it from innovation.
“Inspirational ideas are a dime a dozen” he wrote. And why? Because merely having great ideas, big ideas, and inspirational ideas is not enough. If you don’t know how to innovate the great idea, if you don’t have the discipline, consistency, dedication, commitment, and persistence to make the idea real and actual, the creativity will never amount to anything. You will be a dreamer— poor and unsuccessful, and your creativity un-actualized.
All of this has been recently re-discovered in the research that Jim Collins and Morten Hansen has conducted on highly successful companies. In their book, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck— Why Some Thrive Despite Them All (2011), they reveal what their latest research has indicated about the companies that actually thrive in the chaos of the turbulent and tumultuous events of recessions, change, and uncertainty. Now they thought and expected that innovation by itself would be the trump card. To their surprise, it wasn’t.
The companies that far exceeded the comparison companies, exceeded them by 10-times (hence “10X companies”) “were not necessarily more innovation than their less successful companies.” (p. 73). In fact, Gerard Tellis and Peter Golder Will and Vision studied 66 wide-ranging markets and found that only 9 percent of the pioneers of innovative products ended up as the final winners in the market. In fact, 64 percent of the pioneers failed outright. Obviously, pioneering new stuff by itself is insufficient—it isn’t the big secret for success.
So what’s going on? What’s missing? Collins and Hansen discovered that the secret ingredient that made the difference is disciplined innovation. About innovation they discovered that innovation without discipline inevitably leads to disaster (p. 77). “It’s a discipline game, a scale game, a systems game, not just an innovation game.” Yes you have to innovate, but above the threshold level for innovation in a given industry, being “more innovative” doesn’t seem to matter very much.” What matters is the mixture of creative innovation with discipline. In fact, there has to be “fanatic discipline and empirical creativity.”
And what does all this mean? What is this discipline?
Discipline is consistency of actions— consistency with values, with long-term goals, with performance standards, consistency of method, consistency over time. True discipline requires the independence of mind to reject pressures, and long-term aspirations.
“For a 10Xer, the only legitimate form of discipline is self-discipline, having the inner will to do whatever it takes to create a great outcome, no matter how difficult.” (p. 21)
And what does “empirical creativity” mean? It means have a specific methodology, being able to identify the specific details that make the difference, recognizing what works, how it works, why it works, and then setting up a methodology that can be repeated and doing it consistently. It is being specifically methodical and doing so consistently.
“No human enterprise can succeed at the highest levels without consistency. If you bring no coherent unifying concept and disciplined methodology to your endeavors, you’ll be whipsawed by changes in your environment and cede your fate to forces outside your control.” (p. 145)
The energy for creativity and the power to actually create an innovative product or service may sound easy and simple. It is not. Long after the creativity and inspirational ideas comes the discipline to make it real. That’s why so many “creative people” with great ideas are not able to innovate them for practical results.
So what’s the solution? Easy, the solution is to create a synergy between your meanings and your performance. Your meanings— the creative ideas; your performance— your ability to actualize, to translate into action, to innovate in actual experience.
You can read about all of this in Neuro-Semantics: Actualizing Meaning and Performance (2011), in Self-Actualization Psychology (2010), and in Achieving Peak Performance (2009).
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
Everyone as best as he can!