One Apple A Day #466 – widen your vision

Years ago I went to a conference about eyesight. Among the various information that I’ve learned that day, one really surprised me.
When we discuss eyesight and its related problems, we put most of our attention into our focal vision, yet it covers only 5 to 8 degrees out of the almost 180º of the human field of view.
We see most of the world through our peripheral view.

By Zyxwv99 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37052106

I think it has to do with our hunting heritage. If we want to snatch the prey, we must entirely focus on it.
The focal mode is almost exclusively visual, while the peripheral vision acts in concert with all the other senses. When we focus all our energy on the focal vision, we reduce our ability to perceive the world.

The other day I was talking with an old friend about the beginning of our careers almost two decades ago. He reminded me of the endless and boundaryless conversations we used to have at crazy times of the day or night. We were able to spend hours talking about impossible things and visionary stuff disconnected from reality. Though, a lot of great ideas that flew into our work came out of those conversations.

Unfortunately, because of their nature, nowadays those conversations can’t find space inside our work time. We are so focused on the outcome, the prey, that we put all our energy in the focal vision becoming blind to most of what’s happening around us.
This ability to have an extreme narrowed focus has surely improved our performances, but I believe it is affecting our creativity.

Those open conversations were our way of nurturing our peripheral vision.

Are you still able to find space for open and aimless conversations?

One Apple A Day #453 – Innovation is an attitude

When I was looking for my definition of innovation, I found the amazing work on the topic of Professor Benoit Godin. His definition is the results of his extensive research on the history of innovation.

“Innovation is a deliberate human change to something existing to create something new.”

The word that struck me the most in this definition is “deliberate”.

Innovation does not just happen. It is a deliberate change.

To me, that means that to create innovation is not enough to declare it or to make some once-in-a-while strategic choices such as building an innovation team, hiring the right people, learning new methodologies and buying smart tools.

Innovation is an attitude that we must practice every day.

Too often we look at incredible innovations as if they came out of a magical burst of creativity of some talented guy or team.
I can understand why.
Most of the time the ideas that changed everything were completely unpredictable just an instant before they surface.
But those a-ha moments did not happen by chance.
They were the results of a deliberate choice to be open, curious.
They sparkled from an attitude of innovation.

“With everything perfect, we do not ask how it came to be. Instead, we rejoice in the present fact as though it came out of the ground by magic.” —F. Nietzsche

One Apple A Day #440 – The volcano

“The religions start from mysticism. There is no other way to start a religion. But, I compare this to a volcano that gushes forth …and then …the magma flows down the sides of the mountain and cools off. And when it reaches the bottom, it’s just rocks. You’d never guess that there was a fire in it. So after a couple of hundred years, or two thousand years or more, what was once alive is dead rock. Doctrine becomes doctrinaire. Morals become moralistic. Ritual becomes ritualistic. What do we do with it? We have to push through this crust and go to the fire that’s within it.”

Yesterday I found this powerful metaphor from David Steindl-Rast, a Catholic Benedictine monk. The beauty of this metaphor is that it can be applied to any organisation.

Just replace the word “religion” with “form” or “configuration”. With the word configuration, I mean all the visible and invisible elements that define the “HOW” of an organisation.

Then replace “mysticism” with “consciousness” or “energy”; the true self, the bigger “WHO” of an organisation.

Then the sentence reads: “The form starts from consciousness. There is no other way to start a form. But, I compare this to a volcano that gushes forth …and then …the magma flows down the sides of the mountain and cools off. And when it reaches the bottom, it’s just rocks. You’d never guess that there was a fire in it. So after a couple of hundred years, or two thousand years or more, what was once alive is dead rock. Ideas become risks. Principles become bureaucracy. Ritual becomes routine. What do we do with it? We have to push through this crust and go to the fire that’s within it.”

How many organisation do you know that are in that place? Where the original fire now is just some dead rocks?

And what about you?

Because this metaphor works beautifully also for us, as individuals.

Is your flame, your energy still alive or did you allow for the time to cover it beneath solid rocks?

Every transformation journey starts with removing all those layers of solid rocks to find the original fire and reignite the volcano.

When Innovation hides in the small things

A lesson about innovation by a pirate who never existed

One of my favourites childhood heroes was Sandokan, the Tiger of Malaysia, a fictional pirate created by the Italian writer Emilio Salgari in 1883. The character became very popular at the end of the seventies thanks to two TV miniseries on the national TV. I cherish those evenings with my father in the early eighties, watching together Sandokan’s adventures in exotic islands.

In particular, there is a scene in the movie that I can’t forget. It’s part of the of the second series titled “The Tiger Is Still Alive: Sandokan to the Rescue”.

At the end of the first series, Sandokan was forced to flee from his island, Mompracem, after being defeated and having his wife killed. In the second series Jamilah, a young rebel fighting to free Mompracem travels to India to convince Sandokan to get out of his solitary exile and help the rebels in their fight for freedom. When she finally convinces him, they begin a perilous journey back to Mompracem.

When they are almost at their destination, they pass near a small village. One of the villagers runs desperate towards them and begs for their help. The sultan’s soldiers are robbing them of their harvest, beating and killing everyone who tries to resist.

Sandokan wants to help them while Jamilah is impatient to join the rebels to fight against the tyrant.

The dialogue between them is short but incredibly powerful. I still remember every word of it [the translation from Italian is mine].

[Jamilah]: Sandokan, at this time in every part of the world, soldiers are taking the harvest away from peasants. And even you can do nothing about it.

[Sandokan]: “I know, but I am here, now. And maybe I can do something; I believe that by avoiding the small and close things we end up never achieving those that are big and far.”

We all love big audacious goals and moonshot thinking.

On Youtube there are plenty of videos inviting you to think bigger, to have a high impact.

And it’s great to think big.

To aim high.

As long as it doesn’t make us blind to what’s close to us, and it doesn’t become an excuse to avoid taking action.

Quite a paradox. The shiny light of a big goal may stop us from seeing the small, sometimes tedious, things that compound to achieve that same big goal we are aiming for.

The risk is to achieve neither the big nor the small results.

This is particularly true when we talk about innovation.

Experts favour notable examples, the ones with a substantial transformative impact when they explain how individuals and organisations can become more innovative.

The reason is evident, those examples are the most visible, they are usually well known, and they work well in motivating everyone to aim high.

On the other side though, someone may feel excluded from the game of innovation.

What’s the point in playing at all if I can’t change the world?

As both Tarde and Schumpeter wrote decades ago, innovation is defined by the novelty criteria, not by the size of it.

Just take a look at the origin of the word innovation“mid-15c., “restoration, renewal,” from Late Latin innovationem (nominative innovatio), noun of action from past participle stem of innovare “to change; to renew”. Meaning “a novel change, experimental variation, new thing introduced in an established arrangement” is from 1540s.”

No mention of the size of the change in the original meaning.

But also in a recent, and one of my favourites, definition of innovation by Scott Anthony, “Innovation is something different that has impact”, there are no references to the size of the impact.

What emerges from these definitions, is that a minor innovation is just as important (or maybe even more) as a radical innovation.

Innovation can manifest at the most modest of levels. It can be even unnoticeable when it appears, though the impact may be huge in the long terms.

So, what happened?

Why are we so focused on the big innovations that we overlook the small ones?

Gabriel Tarde gave us the answer over 100 years ago, in his “Les lois sociales”. He explained that we speak too much “of great men when in fact we should be speaking of great ideas, which often come from very small men, or even of small ideas, of the tiny innovations each of us contributes to the common enterprise”.

We love innovation heroes.

Those individuals and organisations that spectacularly change the world.

But what about your world?

Your life?

You?

Do you think you can do nothing and wait for some great innovators to make your world better?

What I learned from Sandokan is never to underestimate the power of a small act.

Innovation is a mindset.

There are infinite opportunities to innovate everywhere around you. They may be tiny, hard to see. But they can start a ripple effect that will innovate your world.

If you’re not ready to innovate the small things close to you, you may never create the big and far impact that you dream about.

 

Originally published on medium.