Wednesday, April 08, 2015

If you fail to forget, you'll fail to innovate

I'm happy to report that I've forgotten a lot about innovation.  In fact I make it a regular practice to try to forget what I know.  After over a decade of focus in the innovation space, forgetting isn't always easy, although as a I grow older I think I'll have the opportunity to forget more frequently and perhaps without trying.  If all of this forgetting seems counter-intuitive, please continue to read on.  If this forgetting seems natural, then perhaps you've reached the zenith of innovation nirvana.  And if you are just confused, or have already forgotten why I was writing about forgetting, please join us for a celebration of forgetfulness.

Why, and What, should you forget?

Innovators who seek new ideas should seek to recognize and value the present, but not cling to it, because true innovation will create change.  For those who cling too tightly to the way things are, or cling to memories about the way things were, these memories become barriers to doing something that will create change.  We innovators must recognize and honor the past and present, but we must be willing to forget what lies behind and press on to what lies ahead.  (A little Pauline paraphrase there).

Forgetting means releasing what you know, intentionally or unintentionally.  When we let go of our knowledge and expertise, when we free ourselves from the burdens of history and conformity and imposed conventions, we can look at problems and opportunities with fresh eyes and expectations. Forget your knowledge and expertise - they often just get in the way of good ideas.  Forgetting the past and looking forward to the possibilities opens up new vistas and creates expectations of better ideas. 

I don't know about you, but when I forget something it makes me somewhat anxious, and I often spend time trying to recover that knowledge or memory.  This deep thinking often leads to new ideas and new energy, because I devote time to thinking and perhaps make new connections in my brain.  I find that forgetting is often a route to new connections and ideas.  Forgetting makes me even more willing to learn, to replace what I've forgotten and to learn something new.

Further, given the pace of change that we are encountering, you may as well forget what you know to be true.  Science is constantly uncovering new truths about what we held as conventions.  Further, entrepreneurs are continually subverting the technologies and tools that just recently we thought were state of the art.  Forget the tools and techniques you have and trust because everything from Moore's law to the network effect tells us that new perspectives and capabilities are just around the corner. To innovate you'll need to be a perpetual, lifelong learner and forgetter.

Oh, and forget the barriers, conventions and regulations that are in place today.  They may constrain your business and your thinking now, but they will be changed, subverted or obsolescent in the near future.  You are probably better off as an innovator forgetting everything you know and hold dear, focusing only on the needs and demands of existing and potential future customers.  Find a way to solve those needs, forgetting what exists and what may constrain you, and you'll find a way to solve those challenges.

Forget the naysayers, conformist and middle managers who say it can't be done, there isn't time or a budget, that it's been tried before.  If you remember these voices or facts you won't be able to innovate.

Strange to say, but I think it's true:  if you fail to forget, you'll fail to innovate.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button
posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 8:13 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home