hide and seek

Like many, I learned as a child, that rules were made to be broken. Not in the I-fought-the-law-and-the-law-won kinda way, nor in a Lindsay Lohan kinda way, but in a more earnest and inquisitive way. People who know me, know me as a questioner of sorts. So as I roll out this carpet of words, I kick it forward with a question – to all questioners I suppose: What makes it so common for us to hide from that which we are in search of?

I am interested in simple ideas. And drawn to the unorthodox ones. Whether we are talking about innovation, design, entrepreneurship, or culture writ large, magic is repeatedly found with these two hooks.

In the company of others I twitter, I flickr, I linkIn and I facebook, for glimpses of the new-new thing. Which begs the question: why is it so easy to get all up in the next big thing? Especially when people are more likely to track the last big thing, in the hopes of squeezing out untapped riches… Call it the orthodoxy of the unorthodox, but this pattern plays out again and again – like sightings of fool’s gold in a gold rush.

And why does any of this matter to anyone? Well, a good place to look for answers is in the dark clouds over Detroit right now. The companies that were once the big three have so consistently avoided change that they find themselves begging for their very existence. Is change just too hard for managers of large companies? Or is it just too hard to imagine?

It seems that so much of our human potential, is captured and expressed in the activities and organisms of commerce. And not just as a way to pay the mortgage. We are what we do. So how we go about it matters. Furthermore, how capable we become at renovating what we do is indicative of the wealth that we can achieve when we work at it together.

A good deal of the time and money of any corporation already goes into Innovation. Fortune 1000 companies invest billions to support innovators; people like me, in fact. But, speaking broadly, little of that investment ever yields return. Our salaries, our benefits, the facilities we work in and expenses we rationalize add up to this considerable sum of money. This news isn’t so interesting for the sunk costs, as it is for the lack of yield.

When Taylor founded scientific management he established the rule, “that you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Maybe it is time break this rule too. Because where Innovation is concerned, you can’t manage what you can’t define.

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