Every Innovator Is Winging It
This awesome video is doing the rounds at the moment. For some it’s an ‘aha!’ moment when they finally realise the revolution that is Social Media. For the Digitialls, this is yesterday’s bit of viral excitement, giving us confidence that all our time spent on Twitter isn’t wasted
But for me, as I watched yesterday… For me this video runs deeper than ‘there’s a revolution and I’m a part of it.’
I’ve just started reading iCon, one of the more recent Steve Jobs biographies. So far, it’s a gripping read about two guys, selling home made mother boards from a garage and taking their first order for $100,000. No hefty bank backing. No VC funding. No rich mum or dad. No support system. And certainly no prior business experience.
It’s the same feeling I had when I read Roy Jenkin’s definitive biography of Churchill. I always thought he knew what he was doing in WWII, that he was carrying out tactics that he’d learnt in military school and were tried and tested over years and years. But in those pages I discovered an innovator — a man fighting in a war that was always changing, never ‘textbook’ — and that the years of experience helped him make decisions with more confidence and wisdom, but by no means did he know that any strategy they employed was guaranteed to work.
Reading about Jobs and Woz, and comparing them to Churchill, I realise that every great leader and innovator lives on the edge. They do not live within the safe margins of tried and tested, for if they did, they wouldn’t be leaders. War is always changing, technology is always changing, and to be the leader, one must also always be changing, learning, adapting — innovating.
We had a Tweetup earlier this month, and it was rather humbling for a few people to comment on how well I was using social media to connect with people, and they were asking what was next — as if I knew what I was doing and had some manual I was reading from. My confession to every one was “I’m winging it here”, to which Michael Greenland, a person I had just met but already knew, uttered some life changing words: “every innovator is winging it.”
Every innovator is winging it, doing their best to navigate the bleeding edge without getting cut, whilst doing it with the upmost confidence in themselves, their team, and the trends they see.
Twelve years ago, the seeds of this social media, the seeds of this video, were not only being sown, but plowed and watered with much effort. With a vision for something they couldn’t even describe, innovators were making seemingly superfluous things, with nothing more than a hunch to go on. And now, today… Well, you saw the video.
So when I watch this video, I think of those people all those years ago who saw this social media world in their mind’s eye. And as I watch with them in mind, I have a choice. Either I:
- Play it safe. Get within the margins. Tweet less and ignore any friendships and business that come from Twitter. Talk about experience less. In fact, forget about experience altogether until it becomes mainstream and someone else was the first there. Stop doing things that I can’t guarantee will work. Listen to my critics and agree that Starbucks sucks. Don’t run ahead of the curve, but get back to doing the safe, old, tried and tested things that don’t bring solutions to new problems. Or,
- Embrace the edge. Grow my wings in order to wing it better. Get some guts. Decide to be confident. Ignore the critical, get feedback from the critics but mostly the beneficiaries, and listen to my friends. Lead better and empower more people. Add value through thinking tomorrow’s thoughts and making them available in frameworks today. Do something remarkable before anyone else thought about it. Use all that knowledge and wealth of experience to help people.
I’m going with the second, obviously. And I know you are, too.