Can Innovation Balance with Status Quo?
As much as I love change, innovation, #RCUS (Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects per Saul Kaplan) and challenging the Status Quo, I realized how much the comfort and haven of some Status Quo means to me as we got settled at our place in Maine. The familiar faces in our little grocery store and post office, seeing long-time friends, the same lobster boats and buoys in the harbor provide a sense of calm, certainty, stability that, paradoxically, frees me to challenge, change, and innovate.
Yet there is still constant change. In Maine, it’s in the water. Several years ago, an old lobsterman had the most elaborate buoys: stripe of red, stripe of white, stripe of red with something different painted in the stripe of white every year such as a buoy, a lobster, and after 9/11, the American Flag. Our kids got one of his buoys every year. One year, there were about half the number of his buoys in the bay. When we saw him at the Co-Op, he informed us his wife had died that winter and he just wasn’t up to it. He looked frail. The next year, his boat wasn’t in the harbor and there were no buoys. He had died that winter. There were new boats and buoys in the harbor. Death and renewal.
What does this have to do with innovation, business, anything? I think a lot on (at least) two levels:
- While we have to embrace the increasing velocity of change and uncertainty for meaningful, effective innovation, change for change’s sake is not the goal. Sometimes the way it is now is really ok. We need to discern the difference and continually re-evaluate. Nothing stays totally the same forever. While the islands, shoals, and hidden rocks are still there, their contours have changed, perhaps ever so slightly, due to the tides, the weather – due to just being there.
- We need to start looking for subtle changes and patterns that provide enormous opportunities. Most non-locals here in Pemaquid probably don’t even notice the changes in lobster boats and buoys – but they are significant indicators of shifts (and generations). While boats and buoys are tangible, many times the patterns are in the intangibles, which is harder to perceive (and measure).
So, I leave you with two challenges as you head out to volleyball and soccer games, walks down the halls at work, visits to plants, boarding planes, even daily commutes:
- Identify the constants in your life, your work, that are working well and that aren’t. Do they need to be changed? Do they provide the stability that allows innovation or do they impede it?
- Look for subtle patterns and changes – especially in places you don’t normally look and think about what opportunities can arise from these.
Please feel free to share your learnings with your fellow readers here in the comments.
Deb, founder of Mills-Scofield LLC, is an innovator, entrepreneur and non-traditional strategist with 20 years experience in industries ranging from the Internet to Manufacturing with multinationals to start ups. She is also a partner at Glengary LLC, a Venture Capital Firm.