Jan 29, 2009

Patience, Resolve, and Vigor: Three Ingredients for Innovation

I've learned some more things lately and a couple of conversations with some good friends made me want to write them down... to share but mostly so I can articulate them to myself.

I am an impatient man. A very impatient man. I want my life to play like a TV cooking show. You know, they spend a few minutes chopping and mixing and chatting. When all the ingredients are ready they pop it in the oven. Two seconds later they pull a freshly baked version out of the other oven and all the guests enjoy a slice of pie.

Unfortunately, this isn't how it works. Yeah, yeah... I know. Some of you are saying thank God he finally got it!! The other half stopped reading because you've heard it all before (probably shortly after I stopped working with or for you). However, I'm not going to say I wish I had figured this out a long time ago.

Some lessons have to be learned the hard way. I have had the honor to work with some amazing people and I have learned from all of them. Even when I quit, I learned from them.

So what did I learn? Innovation doesn't work like a cooking show. There isn't a spare oven we can put our pie in before the show. Hell, we don't even know what we're baking and our producer is polling the audience for ideas.

We're bright, intelligent, and inspired. We demand a higher standard. We're raising the bar. We're going to change the world. But how do we get there? The theory I've been operating on has led me to jump from company to company following the promise of innovation. It isn't working.

So that is why I am quitting my job... no, not that. I had you there for a second though, didn't I? No, that is why I am going to do the opposite. Design is such a fast paced, revolutionary field that we tend to focus on agility and speed but I think we need to focus on something a little less exciting.

Patience to wait for things to cook. Wait for things to fall in to place. Our ideas and passion outpace our organizations. Without major layoffs or the apocalypse this isn't going to change. The only way to get what we need build the foundation for innovation and that takes time.

Resolve to stay true to our ideals and passion. It is easy to fall in to step with the rest of the organization. It is easy to be distracted by small slights and bureaucratic BS. We need to be resolute in our passion for user experience and stay focused.

Vigor. We need to be vigorous in our work. I find myself using shorthand when I find myself up against a wall. I find myself investing less time in projects I don't believe in. I find myself unwilling to "waste" my time on projects when I have been "betrayed" by my leaders. We need to keep going even when faced with adversity. We have to take the time to tell our story and get people to really understand what we're talking about. We need to execute the fundamentals and deliver the tactical solutions our companies need while waiting for long term strategic plans to come to fruition.

I haven't got it all figured it out. And I thank all the people in my life who have done nothing of short of tell me this stuff directly. I just had to see it for myself.

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