Monday, August 07, 2017

The most innovative man in the world

For the last few years a commercial has been running to advertise Dos Equis.  In these commercials there's always some hyperbole (I know, who would of thunk it in a beer commercial) about a suave, sophisticated gentleman who can simultaneously drink Dos Equis and entertain heads of state.  He is, we are constantly reminded, the most interesting man in the world.  We are told that his mother has tattoos that say "Son" on them.  Superman has pyjamas with his face on them.  And so on.  And because he drinks Dos Equis beer, you should too.

In light of this (admittedly interesting and captivating) advertising, I thought it would be interesting to describe in the same way what the most innovative man (or woman) in the world might think, might do and how they might behave.  While the most innovative man in the world doesn't exist, wouldn't it be worthwhile to imagine what skills, attitudes, perspectives and beliefs that individual would have?  Here we go...

The most innovative man (or woman) in the world

The most innovative man or woman in the world would have to have a motto.  The most interesting man says "stay thirsty" because he's selling beer.  I believe the mantra of the most innovative man in the world would be "stay curious", because he's interested in identifying and solving interesting problems.

The most interesting man in the world, according to the ads, is almost always surrounded by supermodels and beer.  The most innovative man (or woman) in the world would be surrounded by customers and prospects, because he or she would be constantly trying to ascertain what the really interesting, unmet needs were.

The most interesting man in the world is always shown in exotic locations - skiing in the Alps or yachting in the Med.  The most innovative man or woman in the world would be found in more mundane places - research labs, startups, focus groups - always searching, always curious, open for any new insight.

One thing both share is the desire for connections, but for very different reasons.  For the most interesting man, connections are about social advancement, getting invited to the right party.  For the most innovative person, connections are about exchanging new ideas, mixing, combining and blending new ideas and experiences to create new solutions.

The most interesting man in the world has a "been there, done that" aspect, always with a wry twinkle in his eye that suggests he's done this before and knows how it will end.  The most innovative person in the world approaches every experience as if for the first time, with a Beginner's Mind approach, hoping to learn something new.

Another thing they share is the lack of conventions.  Neither are interested in following conventions but in setting new conventions, new ways of thinking.  The interesting person does it for attention and followership, the innovative person does it to disrupt markets and industries and create new solutions and value.

The most interesting person is a total insider - knows everyone, knows where the bodies are buried and his or her social capital is built on that, and on sustaining the status quo or bettering it.  The most innovative person is a near outsider - knows a lot of people in the in-crowd but also knows plenty who aren't "in".  He or she understands the social conventions and industry standards but doesn't rely on them, just as happy to subvert them as to sustain them.

Finally, the most interesting man in the world is an amalgamation - the combination of a number of stories and people combined into one fictional person.  Likewise, the most innovative person in the world is also fictional, because it takes a group of people or a team to bring an idea to full reality, and few people possess all of these traits.

 Just as no man is an island, no one person can contain all of the skills and traits to take an idea from concept to realization.  The sooner corporations understand that innovation is a team sport that requires an interesting blend of different skills and experiences, and the environment in which these teams can thrive, the sooner we'll see more interesting products and services.

The most innovative person on the planet isn't known, and probably won't be, because innovation is a team sport, where many different people bring many different skills, perspectives and experiences to bear.  Stop searching for the most innovative person and start building the right teams and placing them in cultural and business environments where they can succeed.

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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 5:49 AM


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