Innovation is something that is key to this world; it is what has allowed humanity to excel to limits far beyond anyone’s imagination. It is what makes the impossible, possible and it is what constantly gets us wanting to improve the world even more.
To have that competitive advantage over anyone else you don't need the money, fancy business cards or someone you hired from a different company that helped them grow. What you need is the pigment inside of you and your mind that allows you to be innovative and to actually think outside the box.
This leads me to share one of my favorite stories. We live in an age where many depend on investors and big checks to fund their world-changing ideas, we have forgotten that money can only get you so far -- and just because you get a big check and have a fancy business plan doesn't mean you are going to actually execute it and succeed. It comes down to you, as a leader, to make it happen and bring your innovation to life.
In 1975, a young director with no name or big film credits was set to make a horror film. That man was Steven Spielberg. He wanted to make the movie “Jaws,” one of the most gory and violent films ever. He wanted the audience to be shocked and awed as to how massive and violent a shark could actually be portrayed in cinema.
There was only one problem stopping him, the mechanical sharks barely ever worked as he wanted them to. As much as the young director wanted graphic shark attacks, he couldn’t have them.
Frustrated with this outcome, he and the team found another solution, which changed the way we see cinema today. They thought instead of portraying the violence, why not leave it up to the viewer to imagine what is going on? How would they do that?
By simply only showing the fin and then someone disappearing in the oceanic depths. The effect of not showing the actual shark attack at all, but seeing people viciously disappear in the water, created a powerful effect that scared everyone, as they were left to imagine what happened.
Because of this seemingly scary effect, to this day, there is still shark hysteria and resounding fear that one is just going to swim up to the beach and start feasting. The funny thing is more people die from dogs than shark attacks.
The brilliance behind Spielberg telling the story of “Jaws” did not happen with them sitting around a circle brainstorming and it was not planned. It happened because what he wanted to do wasn't possible so he found a solution, rather than complaining about the problem and making a shitty movie. The terrible robots they gave him forced him to innovate horror films.
The problem with society and innovation is that we have an incredibly misinformed belief that innovation happens where there is money, resources, people and all the cool stuff you can imagine. But they are wrong, innovation happens when there is a void.
Where there is something missing and someone saying this isn’t correct, so I am going to make it better and that is exactly what Spielberg had done. It is a lack of resources and a lack of money and something going wrong that breeds innovation. Because that is when something is reimagined and recreated.
When you think about it, the largest companies in the world don't really create many innovative products. They have lost their sense of creativity because the money and resources have made them too comfortable. There is no reason why Yahoo should have bought a terrible news aggregator app for 30 million dollars from a 17 year old.
Small and new businesses, that come from nothing, are where all the big ideas happen because those are the people that don't have to play the game of politics to get something done -- they just do. Then the big businesses buy the small ones because of their innovative ideas, products or patents like we saw recently with Yahoo.
Innovation is not bred in places that are too comfortable or too easy. It is brought upon when someone taps into the brilliance of their own mind and thinks what currently exists sucks and wants to improve it -- so they go out there and create it.
Being innovative is not a trait that everyone has, but the issue is many of the people who do have it decide not to do anything with it. Action is what sparks innovation, it’s not being afraid to use trial and error to figure it out because at some point you will fail, but eventually you will figure it out.
It’s about the vision of changing something that is necessary to the world to make it better, so that someone can eventually innovate your product. Look at Steve Jobs, he saw that all the products Microsoft was coming out with were terrible, so he decided to innovate them. Now we, in turn, wait for someone to innovate Apple products.
Innovation is not born from the dream; innovation is born from the struggle. Innovation, at its core, is not simply about building the future; innovation is about solving problems in the present. And the best innovation, just like the shark in “Jaws,” is often something we don’t even know is there.
Preston Waters | Elite.