Ed Quinn is a neighbor and friend who was the first to move full time into a remote North Georgia mountain valley surrounded by many second homes of the Atlanta up and coming. Being the only full-time resident, he was left to adapt to mountain living by trial and error. And so came the following phone call between him and the Department of Natural Resources one day…
“This is Ed Quinn, I really hate to bother you guys but I need some help. We have a very curious bear stalking around our property. I’ve secured all food and trash, with everything else in airtight containers and such. Yet the bear continues to cruise the front porch and inspect the perimeter of our cabin. I’m now afraid that someone may get hurt, me or my wife, maybe one of our dogs, or even the bear. Can you help?”
“Mr. Quinn, relax, that’s why we are here. It’s what we do. We’ll come right out, set a harmless barrel trap, secure the bear, and relocate him to a location where he can roam free and be no harm to anyone else. Just tell us where you are, and we’ll be there today.”
“Perfect, I’m the last cabin on Oliver’s trail, out in Cashes Valley.”
The only sound on the phone now was Silence…Dead Air…Painful Extended Pause…
DNR’s sheepish next comment: “Mr. Quinn, we have a problem.” Ed’s innocent reply: “What is it?”
“That’s where we bring ‘em!!!”
True story, I swear. And yet that was 20 years ago and the Quinns are still happily enjoying their mountain home. And Ed has become a de facto bear expert. Why? Because he HAD to, in order to survive. He had to Innovate. If he didn’t, someone was going to get hurt, or worse.
Let’s apply that to business. Everyone is immersed in some type of innovation initiative at the company, customer, vendor, or industry level. For heaven’s sake, how many titles have you encountered lately with the word “innovation” in them? It’s right up there with “sustainable.” So how serious are we about innovating versus checking the proverbial innovation box? Answer that in your own world, I choose to defer.
But I know this: some people think that innovation needs to be radical and paradigm-shifting; it does not. Some people think innovation comes AFTER normal business process occurs; it does not. Ed Quinn’s example of “Innovate or get hurt” applies in business. I’ll take it one step further. “Innovate or die.” Think of little things that make your processes better and airtight. Create little improvements that optimize your efficiencies and make them stick as practice. Identify lurking dangers before they strike and take mini steps to mitigate them as policy.
So how do we teach our organizations to innovate as a required behavior? That’s tough. As a matter of fact, my next blog will dive deep into that disruptive culture. Until then, “innovate or die,” even if it’s just putting a beehive in front of your cabin.
(images: Susie Davis)