innovate or fritterAn essay on BIF2015.

Attending the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) Summit is an experience of 32 storytellers and over 400 attendees sharing their perspectives, initiatives, fears, and joys. Determining a common theme is challenging, yet some emerge.

BIF2015The subject mix is diverse, as are the people. Education, business, social good, music, and food are just a few. Within this mix, there is guilt and joy. Guilt in listening to spirited initiatives many undertake and wondering am I doing enough. Joy in what is being changed and achieved, celebrating their perseverance and faith in humankind and creating a better place.

Within the stories, pain is evident.

A question arises: Do challenge and constraint drive greater innovation and results?

The simple answer is yes.

The warriors of innovation are not happy ones, at least in the beginning. Wrongs need to be corrected. Old needs to be renewed. Why an individual or a situation cannot stay in its current condition is crystal clear. What clarity of vision does not deliver is an easy path forward. Clarity delivers discipline and diligence.

Giving up is an option. As Dennis Whittle admitted, there were several times when surrendering seemed to be the best option. Almost on cue, a voice delivered encouragement and a renewed spark.

Within the stories, history is evident. Whether we recognize it or not, certain events and individuals influence our future behavior. An interlocking string weaves through our life and, eventually, a certain resolve strengthens our pursuits. When we look back, we gain a real glimpse of why we are doing what we are doing. Another moment of clarity arises, along with our spirit. Chris Emdin brought this to life.

The stories also embrace place. Our place of beginning is motivating. More than motivating, many times, our place is where we must survive or be stuck.

Evil is present. Evil is present in the people who try to hold us back or sidestep the effort to lift up. Evil is present in the identities stolen in our youth or hijacked in today’s cyberworld. Crimes are committed against us, and crime may even seem like the only option to some.

Even in evil, an awareness arises and, for some, a second chance is needed and taken. Always being known for our worst offense can hold people back from ever recovering and building something better. Never grabbing the second chance keeps us stuck, too.

Catherine Hoke at Defy Ventures told this story well in her honesty and actions. Defy Ventures embraces these stories. Within each of us, we need to find that kernel of growth to defy the odds.

Cruelty comes in other forms, too. Cancer is cruel. Youth can be cruel.

Cancer seeks to rob us of life and the plans we have. And then the healthcare system robs us of our data that we want to share and understand.

Youth tries to rob us of our identity. Being unique requires dodging the narrow thinking of youth. When one does, beauty blooms but our beautiful soul, identity, and gifts were always there. Our senses return – breathing, listening, seeing, and hearing an individual for all they are.

Beauty is the result. A beautiful voice resonates through the operatic talent of Carla Dirlikov. Beautiful voices put story and perspective through lyrics and melodies, as Dani Shay proves. Beauty is in the piano compositions played with a renewed passion from a cancer survivor. Beauty springs in the playgrounds built, and the schools reimagined.

BIF and OperaRestless souls. More appropriate is duende, as Carla Dirlikov brought to life. Duende is a Spanish word describing the dark sound engulfing us. In the darkness, an authenticity emerges, and we express ourselves in full vibrato. The closest English word is soul. Duende brings more reality and life to our soul.

A Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, described it well:

“…duende is a power and not a behavior, it is a struggle and not a concept. I have heard an old master guitarist say: ‘Duende is not in the throat; duende surges up from the soles of the feet.’ Which means it is not a matter of ability, but of real live form; of blood; of ancient culture; of creative action.”

Where does this place us? Are we perishing in the corners of our world? Whether in a cubicle, a closed-end job, or wrong life path, are we just accepting our circumstances without tapping into our potential? Are we leaving our real self behind, along with the others in which we can have a positive impact?

Questions sear. Innovation stirs.

Being innovative requires rejection, applied only to certain circumstances. Being innovative requires acceptance of diversity, delivering strength in more ways than imagined.

Our stories contain dots. Connecting our past dots enables placing new dots in a path forward. Adding dots of diversity and overcoming dots of adversity strengthen our stories and resolve.

As Michael Samuelson stated, we get the science of living while we ignore the art of living. Likewise, there is a science to innovation, but the art of living untaps the passion behind innovation.

What I know are a few things.

I know people have those wake-up moments when we are startled by what we have become or left undone. A renewal arises, and we jump on a new path.

I know we all have a past, and there is a connection between what happened, no matter how small or large, and what can happen. In between the two, there is an awakening.

I know we have an opportunity to create a better place. We can ignite this change, or we can add our talents to an ember beginning.

More than an opportunity, I know we have a responsibility to innovate and advance our business, leadership, and community.

I know active curiosity can take us to unknown, meaningful places and work just as it did for Josh Davis, Sophie Houser, and so many others.

I know there is a thin difference in the choices we make that can lead to very different results.

I know there is a thin difference between people when we understand we are connected by purpose, wanting to create something bigger and better than ourselves.

I know we must innovate in places where our soul becomes a contagious energy source.

What I do not know is what is next for me. The constraint of time is here though. Some realize this much earlier than most.

Innovate or fritter.

Creating meaning in our life calls us to innovate where we are, no matter how small or large. Frittering away our time translates into squandering our purpose.

Battered or supported. Constrained or bountiful. Accepted or unaccepted. Whatever our either/or, in the middle, innovation arises, and so does strength.


Note:  Some added thoughts on what an opera singer, food critic, and cancer survivor bring to innovation are on my LinkedIn post, along with thoughts on the collaborative economy, open healthcare, big data, and the role of fun.