When you’re passionate about something, you tend to have innovative superpowers. Think about your own experiences for a second; your best work has probably been when you were enjoying what you were doing – whether that was a professional project at work, your senior thesis, or a personal present for a loved one. This begs the question: how can we harness this power?
Photo by Chelsea Ferenando via Unsplash
Learning How to be an Innovation Baller
We’re going to veer off in an odd direction, but stick with us for a minute. Let’s talk about basketball. (If you’re not a big basketball person, that’s okay; pretty much any sport will work for this, but we’re going to go with basketball). So to set the stage, let’s say you have a big game coming up against your arch rivals. Leading up to the game, you spend hours practicing your shooting and ball-handling skills. Then practicing passing, rebounding, and specific plays as a team. Game day arrives, and you are feeling pretty great at this point; there’s no way you’re going to lose. Then the whistle blows and the game begins. You’re shooting and playing defense almost subconsciously at times. You definitely haven’t forgotten everything you practiced, but in a game-time scenario, the other team is putting you in more situations than any team could possibly have practiced for. This forces you to just play the game and act on your instincts. Sometimes things go the way you want and other times, not so much.
Photo by Regan Vercruysse via Flickr
In 1999, an architect named Michael moved from London to New York, a city where he knew no one. However, in just two short years, he developed a close connection to his transplant city and its community. Then, on September 11, 2001, his life was changed forever. Like every New Yorker who was fortunate enough to have survived the attacks, he was deeply affected and began questioning everything around him.
Not knowing what else to do, he began walking the city. He stopped at a small park with group of fellow New Yorkers looking at a public fountain. Surrounded by strangers silently listening to the flowing water, Michael felt a moment of peace amid the weight of the attacks and a deep connection to everyone around him. He didn’t know it at the time, but it was during this moment that he began searching for a solution to his problem – a way to help New Yorkers overcome their anxiety and sorrow after the tragic events of that day. This peaceful moment formed a passion within Michael. And it would be this passion that would take his career to a whole new level and help him defy all odds (but more on this later)….
So innovation is this super important thing, right? Without it, we wouldn’t have microwaves or modern medicine; we’d still be living in a world where we have to use our hands to flip a physical switch to turn on the lights. Almost 80% of CEOs say innovation is key to the growth of their companies. But with all of our hopes of future profit and driverless commutes, there’s just one problem: innovation is hard — like really, really hard. In fact, CEOs also consistently cite innovation as one of the greatest challenges facing their businesses. So what’s going on here? Why is coming up with new things so dang hard?