Tuesday, April 01, 2008


One of the things I find about being someone who is, from time to time, responsible for innovation, is how hard it is to define the moment when an idea becomes reality. At one level an idea only becomes reality when the event, or whatever was presaged, happens. The greatest test of a prophecy is whether or not it comes true. Perhaps it's the only test. But for me, when setting up something new, there will come a point in the preparation when I will know that it will come to pass. Maybe it's the energy level the project develops that prompts it? Possibly it's being surrounded by a group of other people who have caught the vision? Or even it's that you notice you have tipped from if to when?

I was reflecting on a recent experience of setting up a course that was cancelled - I guess the overriding reason being lack of interest. This may have been due to my failure to enthuse. I normally blame myself first. But I now realise I never had that moment when I knew it would happen. I didn't notice at the time that I hadn't, but I hadn't. So the nearer the event came (without having had my 'moment') the more energy I put into cancelling it.

In spiritual terms it is possible to see this as a matter of guidance. I believe there is a God who frustrates those things that are ungodly and prospers the opposite. Indeed I pray that this would happen. In more modern (oops, do I really think spiritual isn't modern?) terms this is about Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point. There comes a time when things can't help but happen. A good aim in life, for an innovator, is to get things to the point not where they happen, but where you can't stop them happening. The innovation job is then done and it is time to hand on to the managers.

Always remembering, of course, to take the innovators to the review and learn session afterwards so they can compare what actually happened with their vision. Do allow them to leave the meeting before all the monitor evaluators get going on dissecting the detail. Innovators will surely go bonkers at this point. Unless they're scribbling on a piece of paper in the corner of the room. For that will be the next big idea.

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