Solus, perdition & the story in between.
In our last post on innovation, we discussed some of our thoughts inspired by the work of philosopher and academic, Robert Rowland Smith. We left off on the note of the innovative process, this post will be looking a little deeper into that process. Rowland Smith’s work looks into two key concepts — solus and perdition, both inspired by the work of artists and creatives. Art, as ever, informs life and this is no different when it comes to innovation.
What is solus?
Solus is an artist inspired concept — it means alone or unaccompanied. A lot of great art comes from the inability of the artist as an individual to express themselves. The creative process is often fuelled by that which we cannot solve, what our mind is stuck on — the inability to express this is what creates a lot of art. It terms of taking this concept and applying it to innovation — we need to ask ourselves, what is it that I am stuck on? That I do not know how to solve? That I do not know to express? We need to, as individuals, find the nerve to hold that which is the most confusing.
What is perdition?
Perdition is a concept that describes the art of getting lost to be found. Nowadays, a lot of innovation has become about getting from A to B, about being efficient, about being agile. Artists however get radically lost — because until you are empty, you cannot take in anymore. If we stick with the notion that ideas come to you rather than you generate ideas, then it follows that we need to be empty to take in new thought. The journey of loss and despair forces emptiness and therefore forces you to open up and be inventive.
What do solus and pedition have to do with innovation?
Are solus and perdition things that work in the real word or just fancy artsy sounding words? Typically, the reason we stick to brainstorming is because it can be efficient — there’s a start, an end, a method, a point. How do we apply solus and perdition to innovation in the working world? A key example of solus and perdition in practice is Steve Jobs, these being concepts that enhanced his dedication to design and played a key role in the creation of Apple as one of the most innovative global brands. For Steve Jobs to create what he did, he was often lost and alone — his calligraphy classes, his travels to India and his bizarre diets can all be seen as examples of solus and perdition.
Rowland-Smith throws out the idea of radical solus and perdition in order to become more creative, and as a result, more innovative. He ended his talk on the note that “knowing how to navigate to a place, does not help us know the place itself”. The message is clear — you grow more from being alone than in the comfort of groups and you learn way more from doing what you don’t know than repeating what you are good at.
How do we do that in the workplace?
There are examples of companies that have managed to take these concepts and turn them into more focused business strategies to foster innovation — from Google’s 20% rule allowing engineers to spend 20% of their time on innovation, to Google X, also known as the Moonshot Factory — an entity dedicated to turning great dreams into strategies or Apple’s ethos of creating an innovative culture and providing physical space for employees to innovate.
Some of these have worked, some haven’t. Some may work for your business, some might not. What is clear though is that getting innovation right in the workplace is an iterative process. Employees need to be provided with the space, tools & capacity to dedicate time and energy to innovation and finding the balance between this and day to day tasks can take time. When companies do get it right, innovation can bring with it groundbreaking results — the companies that thrive are those that innovate.
If you’ve got thoughts on innovation in the workplace, tweet us your thoughts.