“I approach every project with a new insecurity,” stated Frank Gehry from the Milken Institute Global Conference recently, where some of the world’s greatest minds debated business, politics, sales and conservation. Gehry is a world-renowned architect of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, among others. Gehry, who was once told by a professor to abandon architecture as a profession, says that every project, whether it’s in art or business, requires a “Then what?” mentality. It’s in this moment that you put yourself and your mind on the line. Gehry compares this moment to the artist’s blank canvas. Running a business involves so many continual considerations: due diligence, budget, all the moving pieces, people and functions. But there comes a moment when each of us must step forward, bring our brush to the canvas, and ask ourselves, “Then what?”. And this is when we make our mark…figuratively and literally. At this point, you cannot let your insecurities and fear of failure stop you from painting that first stroke.
Biz Stone, Co-Founder of Twitter, follows a similar mantra. He believes that rules should not stop you from breaking them. As a teenager, while schlepping boxes for $10 an hour at a publishing house, he snuck his book jacket design in with a stack of others destined for the editorial graphic design department. His jacket was chosen! He then quit university and landed a job where he could be mentored by creative artists who were shaking up the publishing industry.
Years later, with 50M tweets per day on Twitter, Biz Stone says the key to innovation is learning how to combine art with sales…and do it quickly!
But how quickly do human beings challenge standardized systems and shift to more enlightened processes and innovative solutions? While listening to this distinguished panel, the hotel begins to set up a lunch area for hundreds of conference attendees. One staff member brings all the silverware packets out and stuffs them into plastic containers. A second staff member returns a few minutes later to then remove the silverware packets and arrange them on a silver tray, before a third staff person walks over, removes the silverware packets off the tray and stuffs them into two silver buckets.
Listening to a panel discuss the art and science of innovation while watching a ten minute cluster comedy of real world business inefficiency points out that creativity and great ideas do not stand on their own merit, but must be clearly communicated and then well executed. Perhaps the innovation equation is actually an addition problem: creative thinking +strong leadership + strong players + streamlined execution = true innovation–a lot of variables, in addition to creativity, and each vitally important.
As business leaders, how well have we focused on each critical element of the innovation equation?