Innovative Thinking – Perspective On Future – Blog 026

Perspective On Future / Past Innovation


Several years ago, I had lunch with Edward de Bono.  He is considered one of the greatest minds on creativity and what he calls “Lateral Thinking”.  It was a real treat for me.


We were discussing innovation and creativity and I said “When we look back on an amazing discovery it doesn’t seem to have the same wow factor as it does when we look at a current discovery.”


I explained that when I discussed developing voice recognition and voice synthesizing back in the 1980s’ everyone compares it to Siri and Alexa and says yeah, that’s cool.  “Cool?!”  That was more than 30 years ago!


What if I could tell you what was going to happen in 2050?  Would you be impressed?  Or, what was going to happen in the year 2020.  It would amaze people.


Looking back doesn’t have nearly the impact as looking forward even when the innovations become part of our today’s technology and culture.  It’s is always like “Of course you did it.  Look at it today?  It’s obvious!”


Edward smiled and understood exactly what I was talking about.  He said the perspective on innovation is like this…


Think of it as a huge tree with a lot of branches.


He said “ What if I pointed to one specific leaf on that tree and asked you to trace that leaf from the leaf to the stem, to the branch, to the limb, to the trunk to the ground…  How difficult would that be?”

I thought about it for a minute, trace the leaf to the ground in my head and said “Very easy.  There’s only one route.”


He said That’s right.  It’s no great feat.  But what if I pointed to one specific leaf on the top of the tree and asked you to trace the tree from the trunk to the limb to the branch to the stem to the leaf?  How easy would that be?”


I answered “Extremely difficult!’


Edward answered “Exactly.  Looking back on innovation is like tracing the leaf to the ground.  The path of logic is obvious.  Tracing the tree from the ground to the leaf has millions of possible dead ends.  It’s a big deal to get that right.  It’s the same journey, only from a different perspective.”


I froze with respect.  That was an amazing insight.  So much so, years later, I am sharing that private conversation with you.


Please think about that perspective of a few moments.


“Failure, just means you have to try it a different way.”

-Lon Safko


Lon Safko
Serial Innovator, Keynote Speaker, Trainer, Innovative Thinking



Tags: innovative thinking, creative, creative thinking, Innovation, critical thinking definition, innovation definition, critical thinking skills, creative process

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