Social Impact on Innovation

Social Impact on Innovation

By Phillip Topham

Quest for Innovation

“Run for the hills. Hide. Hoppers are coming!”   This could be the New York Times headline for the classic Disney movie, “A Bugs Life”  (imdb)

You might wonder whatcan a family film, starring an ant, teach us about innovation.  The movie appears to be a simple quest, where an unlikely misfit becomes the hero.

Come expand your innovative mind.  See how your own quest for innovation is likely in your own back yard.

Bug's Life

The Plot

Bear with me as I recap the story.

Each year the grasshopper army, lead by the evil Hopper (wow such a creative name for Disney) descends on the ant colony, and demands food tribute.  But Flik, an un-liked quirky inventor causes a catastrophe, when he stumbles over his invention and causes theannual food tribute to be destroyed.

Hopper gives the colony one more chance to come up with the food tribute.  Flik, being an innovative fellow, convinces the ant elders, that bigger bugs could scare off the grasshoppers. Thus starts Fliks adventure, where he mistakenly hires circus actors, thinking they are intrepid warriors.

When the mistake is discovered, the colony abandons Flik and push to solve the problem the old way, by harvesting more food.  But they fail.  At the height of peril Flik is inspired to build a flying model bird, to scare the grasshoppers – birds eat bugs! The plan almost works but Hopper discovers the ruse when the bird model accidently catches fire and goes up in flames.  Hopper then singles out Flik for his next meal.  Lead on a merry chase, Hopper corners Flik. Again, Flik being wily and innovative, leads Hopper to a real birds nest, where Hopper thinking the bird is a fake bird, taunts the bird, only to find out its real. Slurp! Hopper is gone!

Good Stories Inspire Us

Loren Javier

Surprise Flik is a hero.

A Bugs Life, like all good stories taps into our social memory.  Good stories create a resonance with our attitudes and feelings. At an emotionally and subconscious level, the characters face challenges that mirror our own real world challenges. But when the hero succeeds, the story gives us hope. Hope, that we to can succeed and be heroes.

Flik is our hero. He is an inventor, un-liked for his ideas and quirky behaviors.  He is innovative. He has the ability to look and think outside the colony.  He is as much banished as volunteers to go on the quest to find a solution to the colony’s problem.

Even though Flik leaves to look for a solution, his innovative ability is always by his side. He returns to the colony seemingly empty handed, literally with a circus troupe.  But his innovative nature remains as he builds the killer solution, the flying bird model.  Even when his idea literally goes up in flames, he’s quick witted to find yet another solution, – only this time it works!

We can identify with Flik. I’ve spoken to many employees. When asked about innovation in companies, they quickly answer “We need more innovation, we are stifling in our cubicles and bureaucratic ways.”


Ant Elders

Companies are very much like ant colonies. If you ask CEOs, they want innovation to drive bottom line revenue. They want what their competitor has built. They want the cool new idea but with out the risk.  The ant elders know the colony has problems and they need solutions. The stockholders demand a new year’s harvest and the cupboards are bare.

Ant elders are happy to see Flik leave; one more distraction gone and out the door. Elders dismiss innovation and try to get rid of the disruptive and quirky ideas that challenge the status quo.  Ant leaders worry new ideas will destroy the harvest.

Our storyinspires and, shows us innovation is discovery.  Innovation abounds, within the colony; there is no need to journey. The solution to problemsis already here. Somewhere in the colony there is an intrepid Flik. If only they would listen they would have found a solution. They would have found innovation.

Ant Leaders

Instead of ant elders, we need ant leaders. We need leaders that can squint into the future, to see the journey.

As Steve Jobs said “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”.

We need leaders with the wisdom and fortitude to not be bullied by this year’s fear.   Instead leaders embrace change and innovation. They help the others in the colony to be inspired, to hope, to dream and to journey within for a better tomorrow today.

Are you an ant elder, praying for a Hollywood ending? Are you inspiring the Fliks? Are you an ant leader? Are you an ELDER or a LEADER? Only one brings an A to the game†.

 †The letter ‘A’ is the only extra letter needed to spell “leader” versus “elder.”

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