Sunday, I asked for your comments on three inspirations for innovation and creativity. If you missed the original, please take a moment to go back and read it first. If you didn’t, be aware that I give away the ending to the Caine film below.
I’m writing this on Sunday, immediately after posing my question to you, and posting it on Tuesday, as promised. Hopefully a few of you have added your wisdom. And here’s what I think:
1. Chris Brogan is spot on when he says you don’t achieve greatness by following the existing paradigm. You conceive the ultimate goal—hopefully something big and bold—and then engineer a path from today’s world to that goal.
- Steve Jobs envisioning a “computer for the rest of us,” or a whole music library that fits in a shirt pocket
- Amory Lovins achieving energy-sustainable construction by creating buildings that don’t need a furnace or air conditioner (and the savings on capital cost pay for the energy improvements)
- Zsolt Varga’s ingenious Kenguru: a tiny car that transports one person in his or her wheelchair, without needing any hydraulic lifts
- A goal of conserving water led Bill and Jane Monetti to enormous water savings without any need to redesign plumbing systems—just from reducing the need to flush
2. A number of lessons to be learned from “Caine’s Arcade”:
- Caine’s parents were wise enough not to interfere, not to assault their son with messages that what he was trying t do was impossible, useless, or even misdirected. They gave him room to follow his dream.
- For Caine, it was enough to build it even when people didn’t come—just as for me, I’m driven to write my blog, my monthly column, and my books even though my audiences are small. Because I know that a few people do passionately pay attention to my ideas, it gives me a lot of juice to keep going. Of course, if I had the fame of a Chris Brogan or Seth Godin, I’d reach a lot more people. And that would harmonize with my own goals to change the world. But just knowing that I have changed the lives of a few people and the course of a few communities helps me keep going. I’m not sure I’m as brave as Caine, though. I’m not sure I could do it anymore if I didn’t think anyone at all was listening.
- The missing ingredient in both Emerson’s “build a better mousetrap and people will beat a path to your door” and director Phil Alden Robinson and writer W. P. Kinsella’s “if you build it, they will come” is marketing. While Caine says he doesn’t care if anyone comes to play, he tells us of feeling excluded and teased when he tried to share his accomplishment at school. And his reaction when his lone customer brings a crowd to play shows that while just the achievement had been enough for Caine, sharing it with others is so much more. Nirvan, that solitary customer, did the marketing for him, and did a fabulous job. The happy ending is as much a testament to Nirvan’s social media prowess as to Caine’s creativity and ingenuity—just as the rise of Apple needed both Jobs’ vision and marketing skills and Steve Wozniak’s engineering genius. The lesson for entrepreneurs is that if you don’t have all three elements—vision, engineering, and marketing—you need to partner with someone who has the pieces you lack.
3. The actual ad featured in the going green video is a brilliant example of using big-picture thinking to convey a message. Take a walk—and find your true love. Yes, it’s absurd. But it’s also very compelling. and it talks most elegantly to the way people can change behavior and become greener—achieving both a planetary and a personal good.
Much traditional advertising of for-profit products and nonprofit causes focuses on one or the other: buy this car or smoke this cigarette and you’ll feel sexy, that sort of thing—or “only you can prevent forest fires,” give money to cancer research, etc.—helping-others messaging without a clear direct benefit.
As a green marketer, I constantly say that marketers need to hit both the self-interst and the planetary interest, especially if they want to reach beyond the deep greens. In fact, I wrote my last Green And Profitable column on this very theme. The ad is a nice example, and the opening slides give us some very good framing about the power of art to influence thought, in many contexts.