The Tao of the Innovator

The Tao of the Innovator

By Joseph Giordano

As an amateur practitioner of Buddhism and Buddhist techniques, I want to explore the Tao of the Innovator (the way or path of the Innovator).

To define Tao (by Merriam-Webster):

The art or skill of doing something in harmony with the essential nature of the thing.

No matter what job, role or function you have, you must first be harmonious with yourself. This harmony, or internal climate, is the key to following the Tao of the Innovator. Having a centered, self-appreciative view of oneself allows you to start to treat others in the same way. This mentality will spread and it will create a safe, open, honest climate that enables the intertwining of your path with others so that the journey is collaborative amongst the team present.

To reach a harmonious internal climate, there three key behaviors that we must follow:

  1. Speak so that others can hear you:

    Speak with language that is pure and simple; language that is direct and to the point. Speak in headlines by offering your point first, then where the point originated. Offer ideas, not questions. Questions are ways that we self-censor and let others know that we don’t like their ideas.

  2. Listen to build, not tear down:

    Actively listen to others in a manner that continually drives the thinking forward or in new directions. Do not listen to find flaws; seek out the thinking that should be built out and grown. This thinking approach helps eliminate issues rather than highlight them.

  3. Assume positive intent:

    This behavior is all about being in a frame of mind that what is happening at each moment is the best possible thing that can be happening. When we assume positive intent in our interactions, our own actions become positive to others. Additionally, there is no disconnect between the intent of the communication and how it is received. All interactions and communications will therefore be positive.

The second step towards living the Tao of the Innovator is to be in a mindset of thinking differently, not harder. Too often, people are asked over and over to solve problems or look for opportunities for their business by reflecting on the existing thinking–by thinking harder about what they already have thought about again and again. Thinking differently is about allowing yourself to observe the unobservable and to make connections where none seemingly exist.

The innovator is someone who can find inspiration and solutions using any piece of data. The world becomes their research platform and they can see the solutions to their biggest opportunities using any medium. The Tao of the Innovator helps us see that the solutions to all of our problems exist somewhere, we just have to be available to finding them.

This availability begins with the first step in the path, a harmonious inner climate.  Without a harmonious inner climate, our mental energy would be used up with other tasks other than thinking.

The behaviors and processes to think differently and use the world as your research platform to solve your biggest opportunities are:

  1. Wish

    Focus on what you wish could happen. After all, a wish is just a wish and you never have to defend your wishes–and others can’t judge, because they are just wishes. Wishing puts us in a freer thinking mode and immediately takes us away from the current state of thought.

  2. Think in Metaphors and Analogies.

    The most powerful thinking tools for innovating are within the way we think about and how we describe our problems and solutions.  Metaphors and analogies help us redefine and put a simpler story together about what is trying to be accomplished. Once we can describe what the problem or solution is “most like” in other worlds, we will have started to create clarity for others.

  3. Push your thinking to the extremes.

    Einstein said that “if an idea is not first absurd, then there is no hope for it.” The most prolific innovations in history have always started with an absurd notion or wish. As we challenge ourselves to think further and further away from rational thought, we have the greater opportunity for a breakthrough. Innovating is about creating the opportunity for breakthrough.

If one is truly living both the harmonious inner climate and thinking differently, that is where creativity flourishes. To be truly innovative, one has to encourage courageous action. This action is about daring to do something different with the creativity that has been developed. Innovators choose the path that no one has chosen before, without fear or hesitance. Courageous action is selecting the ideas to push forward that no one has chosen before, that seem contrary and that fit into the absurd realm–and, at the same time have a level of excitement and energy that just wouldn’t be found elsewhere.

The Tao of the Innovator helps you embody this by:

  1. Selecting the ideas that are truly new and intriguing

    What innovators do is look for the ideas that they feel can get new momentum behind, they have none of the everyday thinking contained within. They understand that they can make new and intriguing ideas feasible, and they cannot make feasible ideas new and intriguing.

  2. Iterative development.

    New and intriguing ideas needs need time to grow and flourish. Innovators know that it takes more than one set of eyes to truly develop and enhance an idea. They use a process that evaluates and builds out an idea before making the decision to move on or away.

  3. Using an overall purposeful process

    Each innovator in history is different, however the processes they used can be summed up similarly: Divergence and Convergence. Successful innovators allow time to encompass both thinking modes. First exploring all possibilities of thought and then slowly defining and developing the thinking into the reality of the business outcomes they are searching to achieve.

The Tao of the Innovator puts us on a positive path to follow.  It will take slight changes in our own approaches, methods and behaviors to be on the same path. As we start to focus on our own climate to impact others, think differently so others can do the same, and courageously act upon the problems, opportunities and ideas, we will start our own innovators journey and bring others along with us.


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