Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How entrepreneurs foster innovation.

Post 321 - Judging by Federico Faggin's outline for introducing innovation which I posted yesterday, the current confusion over health care reform reflects a process that lacks a clearly crystallized central idea and is thus active in all the stages Fagin mentioned at the same time. Hopefully, the president's address tonight will bring a better focus to the national discussion.

I think it's a pity we don't have more people with entrepreneurial experience in government these days instead of so many full-time political bureaucrats. Why? Because entrepreneurs have energy, vision, selling skills and hustle. They've an innate ability to compartmentalize their fears and doubts. They've the drive to put their imprint on whatever they create and they're comfortable with ambiguity and lack of clarity. More than anything, they want to use their skills and abilities, be independent, have contol over their lives and build for their families. They believe in what they’re doing with a passion that overcomes doubt. They believe that if you want to be successful, don’t make a wish, make a call.

Andy Grove of Intel says that learning to adjust in today’s environment is like driving in a fog behind another car. It’s easy going as long as you have the other car’s tail lights to guide you. But when the leading car turns off the road, you’re suddenly stuck without the confidence that comes from finding your own way. Followers have little future. You mustn’t let your strengths become your weaknesses. Focus on inventing the future rather than sprucing up the past.

If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. The cost of delay exceeds the cost of mistakes. Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome. Progress always involves risk. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first at the same time. "Some things arrive on their own mysterious hour, on their own terms and not yours, to be seized or relinquished for ever,” according to the writer, Gail Goodwin, who also reminds us that the turtle only wins the race in fairy tales.

Creativity is all about connecting things. Creative people don’t really do something different - rather they see something that just seems simple and obvious to them. That’s because they can connect their experiences and use them to synthesize new points of view. They can do this because they have more experiences or they think more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s a rare commodity. People who haven’t had very diverse experiences don’t have enough dots to connect, so they're unable to think systemically. As a result, they end up with very linear solutions because they don’t have a broad perspective on their problems.

A poet must embrace many tasks, not the least of which is making all the parts of the poem fit together. The biggest challenge is not just to create an exquisite turn of phrase but to be true to the essence of the poem as a whole. Systems thinking is an understanding of the connectedness of different parts of an entity to one another and to its environment. System thinking makes the full pattern of change clearer. When you’re deep in a hole, all you can see is the edge. However, the view from the mountain top is very different.

Stanislaw Lec's observation is still true today: “Many of those who were ahead of their time had to wait for it in uncomfortable quarters.”

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