Innovative Out of Orbit — Part 2

Photo by Vincentiu Solomon on Unsplash

What ‘Innovativeness’ Actually Means

It is time we started questioning our idea of what constitutes success in this time of increasing innovation-by-exception. Many hold the view that an accumulation of innovative accomplishments is a good measure of success. That is their proof in the pudding — beautiful, state-of-the-art innovation labs churning out cutting-edge solutions to our problems. The truth is that accelerators and incubators are fantastic sources of vanity metrics. They are the five-star restaurants serving up world-class cuisine in the affluent pocket of a city otherwise rife with undernourishment.

Shoes that Almost Fit

All it took to assist my family was a little bit of creativity, but most people along the way found themselves incapable of envisioning any relief, because it wasn’t in the manual. All it took was a simple act of caring, but that act was beyond the conceptual capacity of so many, and many stood in my way to enforce norms rather than helping. We default to norm-enforcement because our culture places standards above all else — above families, above individuals, and above even those things we claim to call values.

Lower the Threshold for Caring

The solution to these deep-rooted cultural problems starts with unlearning our misplaced reverence for norms and regulations, and beginning to see them as conditional. Policies and standards must be in service of a deeper set of principles rooted in core values, prioritizing caring for the welfare of our people and sustainable increases in mission effectiveness. Regulations that violate the explicit values of our community can be clearly identified and, without hesitation, disruptive challenges to them elevated, acted on, and openly celebrated. Before that can happen, our priorities need to be reordered, and the new, values-driven order has to be demonstrated often, out loud, and without exception.

With our Powers Combined

According to Yuval Noah Harari, in his book Homo Deus, the embedded values of a culture, conscious and unconscious, emerge as a shared reality made manifest only by the fact that those in the community believe in it. This is an example of what Harari describes as “transsubjective reality” — not objective truth, but made real by the interaction of many individuals’ subjective belief. An example is the concept of authority. A country’s ruler is only in charge so long as the people believe them to be so. If one day, everybody suddenly realized this individual held no objective power and all at once stopped believing they were in charge, they simply no longer would be.

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