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Risking change.

There are two thoughts I'd like to share with you this month, based on two recent experiences.

First, there was the NFAIS meeting in late February--a really outstanding program, by the way--where consultant Larry Keeley, co-founder and president of Doblin, Inc., asked the lyrical question, "Why do so many companies fail to innovate?"

Later that week, I was in Washington, D.C., at a Knowledge Cafe held by consultant David Gurteen. Feds and area consultants looking for federal work had gathered at the U.S. Government Printing Office to ponder the question, "How can we get people in the intelligence community to take more risk?"

Why would employees dread the brainstorming session and its charge to create brand new ideas for making money in no time? And why would government workers be afraid to propose a radical change to do things the way we do them around here? It beats the heck out of me.

How can the establishment be established and yet be capable of disestablishment? How can the enterprise go about its business effectively, efficiently, and with all due respect to shareholder value and EBITA (earnings before interest taxes amortization), while also putting some portion of the business at risk?

How can it be that only Net-geners starting up in their garages are capable of coming up with innovative ideas, such as eBay, Amazon, YouTube, Flickr, Second Life, and Google?

Where's the world going except to hell in a handbasket (whatever that means)? There's nothing new here.

Artists, inventors, creators, and innovators have always occupied the sidelines in the game of life. And why? Is it because establishments are not capable of disestablishment? Or is it that nothing can experience transformative change without one person's vision and the leadership to see it materialize?

Ah, that was another idea at the Knowledge Cafe in D.C. How can we get people to show more leadership, especially the baby boomers, before their knowledge slips out the door for good?

Sometimes I wonder if the reason we don't change more easily is because we're trying too hard.

As Keeley observed at the NFAIS conference, you don't get innovative ideas by putting people in a room with a flip chart and a felt-tipped marker.

I am reminded of mathematician and inventor Archimedes sitting in his bath (don't ask). Legend has it that he was soaking in a tub when he suddenly uttered the word "Eureka!" He had discovered how to use water displacement to calculate volume.

There's also the one about Isaac Newton and the falling apple ... and, there you go, haven't we had gravity ever since?

Sometimes when I write my editorial it takes hours, but sometimes, it all just comes together in a matter of minutes. One doesn't turn creative juices off and on like water from a faucet. And I manage to think up the best ideas in the shower.

When I look at eBay, Amazon, YouTube, Flickr, Second Life, and Google, it's obvious why these are great ideas. I wish I had thought of them. Alas, I never emerged from my bathroom inspired with a paradigm-shifting business model.

Those who cannot come up with a great idea should probably not comment either, but it has never stopped me before, and, besides, it all seems quite simple to me. If you can't innovate, you should at least be able to emulate.

If it's eBay, Amazon, YouTube, Flickr, Second Life, and Google that represent the true innovations of our times, then coming up with something similar should be a piece of cake.

IM your buddies. Get the word out. Quick, everyone. Head into the conference room.

Dick Kaser is Information Today, Inc.'s vice president of content. His email is Send your comments about this column to
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Title Annotation:innovation and creativity
Author:Kaser, Dick
Publication:Information Today
Article Type:Column
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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