It’s been a couple of years since my post Innovation is a Funnel, Not a Pipe where I made the point not all ideas/products succeed.  But as this quote from Amos Bronson Alcott suggests, the process is a necessary one:

Our bravest and best lessons are not learned through success, but through misadventure.

On Monday, our company hosted an innovation showcase where finalist solutions were highlighted. This was the culmination of an internal movement making the point innovation is the responsibility of everyone, not a specific group.  Over 400 submissions, from multiple regions, representing various parts of the company … all focused on FinTech and making things better, easier, faster, seamless and more secure.

Still not a believer? Consider this point SAP CEO Bill McDermott made several years ago when speaking about innovation …

80% of the incremental revenue SAP has today is from businesses they were not in 3 years ago.

Yea, compelling. And circling back to the event on Monday, what I found most intriguing was not the finalist ideas themselves.  Yes, several of the ideas were compelling and have serious potential.  But it was something the keynote speaker who kicked off the event said that really captured my attention.  The speaker was Mick Ebeling, and the point he made is partially represented in the hyperlinked TED Talk, but he really expanded upon it in our event. Here is the jist:

  • Sometimes problems/issues/challenges capture our attention, and the thought of solving them is overwhelming.
  • Think world hunger … if I were going to ask you to help me solve world hunger, it is a big ask! But if I asked you to help me feed 1 person, it isn’t so overwhelming … but in the process of helping one, we actually begin to help many.
  • And sometimes focusing on a smaller bite size chunk (no pun intended), no matter how absurd or impossible the task seems, can be the spark that ignites into something bigger.
  • Think of something possible today … it can be anything.  At some point prior to today, it wasn’t possible, and maybe even was thought to be impossible.
  • And seemingly impossible things today, are on a trajectory to become possible at some point tomorrow.

I needed that perspective, because I am dealing with new perspectives for an older product in need of innovation.  And I can see the potential, but it feels like at almost every turn people are commenting ‘it’s not possible‘ for one reason or another. What isn’t possible today may be possible tomorrow … just keep the ideas flowing.

It also reminded me of another quote I’ve leaned on at various times in my career.  This one is from St. Francis of Assisi, and it is the beginning to the title of this post …

Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.