Innovation Killers Part 2: Because I Said So

We’ve all heard it and most of us are guilty of saying it on more than one occasion. You can probably trace it back to some of your earliest childhood memories and subsequently throughout your adult life.

Don’t touch the stove. Why? Because I said so!

Get good grades in school. Why? Because I said so!

Go see that big client in California next week. Why? Because I said so!

What’s the result of this unfulfilling answer to the myriad of why’s we ask in our lives? One, we sear our hands, learn the hard consequences of our rebellious spirits and become disgruntled employees who do their jobs half-heartedly at best. Or two, we do as we’re told and get in line, but our insatiable curiosity always wonders ‘what if?’ In either case it’s not an optimal outcome and it won’t lead to a satisfying long-term sense of personal or professional development.

The issue with the first scenario is obvious; it hurts to get burned time and again for things that were completely avoidable. However, ‘because I said so’ exacerbates a significant problem we have in western culture, which is we often don’t learn our lesson about something until we learn it the hard way. In other words, it causes us to take dumb risks. Innovation is about continuous change and that involves some risk in and of itself, but there’s a difference between dumb risk and smart risk. If you’re following some of the core principles of innovation, such as sharing ideas and constantly communicating information, you can mitigate much of the risk of your future moves and innovative efforts.

The second scenario, while not as simple is equally as detrimental. What’s wrong with following the rules and doing what you’re told? Absolutely nothing! I’m not advocating that you start a revolt simply for the sake of rebellion and breaking the rules. That would be one of those dumb risks we just talked about. But if you think that ‘because I said so’ is always an acceptable answer to your why’s of life, you’re missing out on a great deal of what you have to offer the world with your talents. How so? You’ll wind up asking yourself all the wrong questions. What’s worse is you’ll internalize these questions, as opposed to expressing the right ones out loud in a collaborative way.

In short, ‘because I said so’ will cause you to become intently focused on trying to figure out what will happen if you touch the hot stove, when you should really be considering the endless possibilities of fine cuisine that same stove could be used to make. So which would you rather have — a scarred hand? Or a tool to leverage for your sustainability? Really ask yourself this question, not just because I said so.

Originally published at