I spent some time reading this morning on the concept of Discontinuous Innovation. I am not really in the world of product innovation. I imagine that someone in the role of developing new products would understand all the different forms of product innovation. Effectively if you sell a product that people use, then you can innovate in many ways. First you can just continuously make improvements. Small, incremental changes and improve the product. If you do not, then at some point, a competitor will produce the same product with better features and your lack of innovation will cause you to lose market share. Then there is continuous innovation that is of a more dynamic nature. This is where you figure out how to create an innovation that completely changes the product but people still use and consume it in the same way. Finally, discontinuous innovation is where you create a product and completely change consumer behavior. That is fascinating to me, because in my business there are a few companies that have succeeded in doing this and it interesting to note their rapid growth and challenges as they deal with the ramifications of seriously altering consumer behavior.
Of course the business theories around innovation do not stop there. You have entire classifications around incremental innovation, disruptive innovation, radical innovation, etc. The list is probably endless. Everyone is looking to be the one driving innovation.
The point here is that if you do not change, you will become irrelevant and you will no longer grow. It is a fact of business and it is is a fact of life. Any human designed system is going to mimic life. The biologist will probably discover very similar patterns of innovation in a dish of bacteria that we find in new product enhancements in high tech. It is my theory, therefore, when we consider our own lives we have this very interesting dilemma to deal with:
Grow or Die
When I owned a small business, my wife and I would use this phase frequently. Quite literally, if you are not accepting new business, pushing to improve products, lower costs, increase client base then you are going to struggle. Perhaps in a non-capitalist society the rules are different, but I have a feeling that this concept is true everywhere. You are either improving or you are fading. There is no happy balance point, no luxury time when all is in harmony. The only way to find peace is to be constantly growing.
Now this could become a great source of debate. We could go back and forth on that statement. Many will argue that I am encouraging people to stay on the rat race treadmill when all they really need to do is get off. I do not disagree. No one should ever be sticking to the same course, running the same race, repeating the same mistakes. That is exactly my point. To be static is death. A fixed mindset will never improve. It will slowly get beat down until failure eventually occurs.
I would argue that once we have accepted the continuous improvement paradigm, the I am always going to be learning mindset, then you absolutely need to learn how to be calm about it. To be frenzied, stressed out, over taxed, out of balance is also something that prevents growth. Growth occurs when all resources are in harmony AND you have a continuous zeal for pushing forward and getting to the next plateau.
So you have to grow. You have to improve. If you do not then you have accepted death, and I do not necessarily mean a physical death. I am talking about a mental or spiritual death. The human spirit needs to be in growth mode, just as in business, so it is in life. The magnolia tree in my backyard, is in growth mode finally. Leaves are starting to sprout, flowers starting to bloom. Whereas the alternative is slow decay. We could extend that analogy to say that trees of this nature do go dormant for a period of time. That is true, but they are going dormant to rest and prepare for rapid spring time growth.
So if you are calling inactivity that you are experiencing right now, my period of rest, my winter dormancy then what is going to be your springtime growth? Perhaps you are just being lazy. To bring this point to a conclusion. We need to be innovating our own lives with the same zeal that a company is constantly releasing new product enhancements. IF we are not seeking, striving to improve then we are effectively dying. It may take a while for a lack of innovation to take its toll, but it will eventually. So remember when you are resisting that change that you know you need to make – grow or die.