Flexible Focus #28: The Principle of Innovation

by William Reed on November 18, 2010

When it comes to innovation, for the vast majority hindsight is 20/20. “Why didn’t I think of that?” These are the famous last words of those who wonder why someone else always beats them to it with a new innovative product or solution. The reason is simple. Innovation is an intuitive process, and unless you tap into intuitive thinking, it is most likely to escape you.

Intuitive thinkers are comfortable in the world of ambiguity and possibilities, and tend to be quite good at connecting the dots which others never seem to notice. Intuitive thinkers are constantly discovering and creating new constellations, while non-intuitive thinkers stick with the familiar constellations. This changes of course, when a previously unknown constellation becomes known. After a new product, such as the iPad comes on the scene, it isn’t long before a host of imitators follow in hot pursuit.

You don’t have to look back too many years to see that at any period of history, even among experts what passed for common sense was completely overturned by new insights and innovations. Read a few quotes of the things people said when making Bad Predictions. Particularly in the area of telecommunications, computers, and transportation, where innovative technology has transformed our world, time and again expertise comes with an expiration date.

Innovation is about foresight, not hindsight. How then can we develop the ability to see clearly through the clouds, and use flexible focus to master the Principle of Innovation?

Desire to discover

The motive power of the innovative mind is curiosity, the desire to discover what is beyond the obvious. Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher whose thesis was that change was a central principle of the universe, spoke as a true innovator in saying that, “Hidden connections are stronger than obvious ones.”

This applies even when there is no obvious tangible treasure to be gained. Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest innovative geniuses of all time, was so fascinated with cloud patterns, moving water, and even the patterns of stains on a wall, that he recorded them in sketches and wrote extensively about the patterns of nature in his notebooks.

Progress in learning a foreign language or musical instrument depends on intense curiosity to explore deeper, without which the process of practice would be tedious and tiresome. When a Japanese calligrapher was asked what motivated him to keep on practicing, seemingly surprised by the question, he responded that it was a continuous process of surprise and discovery. To a curious mind, practice is its own reward.

Inside, outside, and beyond the box

In Japan, the process of innovation actually begins with mastering an established pattern. This is true in all of the traditional arts and crafts, and each school starts by teaching the well-established master patterns. However, at some point students are expected to break from the pattern and explore variations on the master theme. Ultimately, the process of mastery involves freedom to improvise. Known as 守破離 (shū ha ri), the literal translation of the characters is defend-break-leave, as in defend the pattern, break free, leave behind.

This approach to innovation involves thinking inside, outside, and beyond the box. The Mandala Chart is practically designed for this purpose, which is excellent training for flexible focus.

Wealth Dynamics Square

Learning from the Wealth Dynamics Square

The Wealth Dynamics Square shown here was developed by Roger J. Hamilton, to graphically represent how the 8 personality profiles are positioned on the vertical axis of Intuition vs Timing, and the horizontal axis of Extrovert vs Introvert. These are terms originally developed by Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung, the founder of Analytical Psychology.

The Wealth Dynamics Square in effect is a Mandala divided into four triangles and eight profile points. As a navigational compass for entrepreneurs it is unsurpassed.

In this diagram the intuitive process of Innovation takes place in the green triangle at the top of the square. This is DYNAMO energy, represented in Chinese philosophy by the element of Wood, with growth in the Spring season. The three profiles across the top of the square are MECHANIC (山 mountain ), CREATOR (天 heaven ), and STAR (雷 lightning ), all of which represent mystery and high places, the dwelling place of innovation.

The Wealth Dynamics profile is not a point, but rather a shape crossing each of the four triangles in a radar graph. The profile of each person contains a percentage of each of the four energies, DYNAMO, BLAZE, TEMPO, and STEEL, and the person’s profile type is determined by the one that has the largest area in the graph. For more information on how to interpret the Wealth Dynamics Square, visit the Find Your Flow page on my website.

Learn from the Masters of Innovation

Though quite different in style, each of the profiles in the DYNAMO energy range has a special talent when it comes to the process of innovation.

CREATOR is the purest form of this energy, and famous Creators include Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs.

The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, by Carmine Gallo, is an excellent resource available for people in any profile to learn from one of the undisputed masters of innovation. Carmine Gallo has been interviewed extensively about this book, as well as the preceding volume, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

Innovators lead, imitators follow. Jobs himself described imitators as being like “Someone who’s not cool trying to be cool. Painful to watch.”

According to Gallo, the Seven Principles of Innovation are:

  1. Do what You Love
  2. Put a Dent in the Universe
  3. Kick-Start Your Brain
  4. Sell Dreams, Not Products
  5. Say No to 1,000 Things
  6. Create Insanely Great Experiences
  7. Master the Message

And he illustrates these not just with the achievements of Steve Jobs, but with other companies which have also mastered the process. Gallo gives us seven principles. Why not eight? Use your imagination to fill in the eighth principle as your own creative motto, whatever phrase triggers the creative process for you. You can download an INNOVATE LIKE STEVE JOBS Mandala to get started, but get the book to keep going.

Take a master for your mentor. Just remember to emulate, not imitate

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