By Marshall Barnes, R&D Eng Copyright July 6th, 2014 ALL RIGHT RESERVED
Part of what I discovered that is wrong with the innovation promotion industry is the proclivity to cover-up one thing by changing phrases, words, or other cosmetic approaches to then claim that you have a new idea. An innovation. In reality, it’s all about as effective as putting a wig and lipstick on a sow and saying it’s Miss Piggy. Or worse, covering up body oder with cheap perfume. In the end, it’s not what it seems and the illusion doesn’t last long.
The worse thing about this practice is that so any people and entities have been getting away with it. How so? I’m an analyst among many other things, and I catch these tricks when I analyze what’s being said. This is a skill that I’ve witnessed in decline among many other people, beginning in the ’90s. It is especially near nonexistence in the media at a level that would be alarming to my senior high journalism teacher. In my case, lot’s of times these manipulations just pop right out at me, but I’m usually tipped off by the title of an article or blog post, because it is in the title that the fakery appears first. This usually manifests itself in trying to sound witty, or ironic. For example, “Go For Discovery and Not Solutions”. The minute someone suggests that I go for something ambiguous over something concrete, I become suspicious. It tells me right away that perhaps they’re doing that because they don’t know how to deal with specifics and they are trying to sell me on a way of doing things that makes their weaknesses look like strengths. So that in turn, weakens me. That’s one of the reasons I say that the innovation promotion field has now gotten dangerous for business.
I’ll give this example, taken from the phrase I listed above –
A commencement speaker at Brown University told the gathered throng that ““We didn’t come to Brown to find answers. We came to Brown to come up with better questions.” which is 100% b.s. Not a little bit. Not a lot. 100%. Here’s why –
OK, they went to Brown to come up with better questions. Note, first of all, this isn’t the result of some poll. This is an unidentified commencement speaker who is speaking rhetorically, it appears. Now why am I being so ambiguous? Give me a second and it will be apparent. So then what did the students do? The last time I checked, in order to get a degree you had to pass exams. The last time I checked, exams had questions to answer. The Brown statement makes you think that it’s all about questions now, instead of answers, but it’s a misdirection. If you’re looking for answers – you already have questions. Better questions are still there to get answered. It’s always about getting the answers, that’s why it’s misdirection. It’s making you think that you have to change something that you’re doing when in fact, you don’t have to change anything. But for the innovation promoter, they have to get you to think that you’ve got to change, otherwise, what do you need them for? So, because they have no real answers, and they have no real solutions, they have to make you think they do and the way to do that is to get you to think that you’ve got to change what you’re doing and do what they say – but it’s all smoke and mirrors.
Now, here’s why the ambiguity. This quote from an unidentified commencement speaker at Brown came from one Deb Mills-Scofield, founder of Mills-Scofield LLC, who claims to be an innovator, entrepreneur and non-traditional strategist with 20 years experience in industries ranging from the Internet to Manufacturing with multinationals to start ups. She is also a partner at Glengary LLC, a Venture Capital Firm and she’s the one that used that example to make a point – to get her readers to go after “discovery” instead of “solutions”. But here’s the deal. She not only failed to identify the speaker, but in her article she has a link to this page – https://news.brown.edu/articles/2014/05/orators which names Carolyn Bologna and Joshua Block as student speakers at said commencement but neither one is identified with giving a speech with said quotation.
Now are you starting to get the picture here? The THEME of Deb’s article is discovery over solutions. She uses a quote from an unidentified commencement speaker, suggests, by linking to a page with two students on it, that it was one of them that said it, and she actually thinks that this is credible behavior? Why can’t she say which student it was? Hello? So, we don’t know, actually, if it was even one of them that said it. The quote is not the theme of either or their speeches which means that the comment was probably rhetorical. In fact, it’s not even original as I’ve heard a similar sentiment expressed during a documentary on advanced concept science and technology. In that case, the statement was, “It’s not enough to just look for answers. We need to start coming up with better questions.” However, notice the difference – answers are not discarded as a goal, only that better questions are now required as well. Now you see why I was ambiguous on the details – because my source was needlessly ambiguous.
So now, Deb’s article has a high degree of B.S. already. She uses an unsubstantiated quote to make the point of her article when that quote, taken literally, is problematic. Even if taken at face value, if your intent is to discover something, then by default you will come up with an answer to something. She seems to be arguing for something akin to pure research, which is not a problem – I’ve done pure research and made significant discoveries, but there is no value in doing one over the other. It’s based on the need at the time. As an internationally noted R&D engineer who has even built his own labs, I think I know something about doing something for discovery. That’s why I built my labs. The first was specifically for pure research. In other words, just to do research to see what I might discover. But here’s the point – you do that because you know that what you discover will provide solutions! Case in point – out of that lab I discovered the electromagnetic solution for warp drive and because of that, I am the leader in the world on not only the ultimate potentials for space tourism, going to Mars and interstellar space travel (NASA BTW has none of this capability) but time travel as well. That’s right – time travel. You can look it up. My machine, the Verdrehung Fan™, is already sending RF and IR waves out of our space-time continuum and was the device I used to beat Dr. Ronald L. Mallett in the race to build such a technology. I stand to make more money than the entire innovation promotion industry within the next 12 years. Right now, I’m preparing to do major presentations at Harvard, the International Mars Society Conference and the 100 Year Starship Symposium – July, August, September. So, I think I know just a little bit more about the issue of discovery vs solutions than little Debbie does.
If you look at the overwhelming amount of innovation advice and gimmickry out there, you’d be astonished. It can’t all be right because in fact, much of it is contradictory. I haven’t done a proper check yet, but I would imagine that everything you need to know about doing innovation could be summed up in 10 talking points. That’s it – 10. So why so much material? Why so much yapping and blabbing about something so simple? Because, they have nothing else to do and they have to make themselves appear to be needed.
I’ll give you yet another example along the same line as the quote I’ve been discussing. Warren Berger, the author of A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas who was featured in an article on Inc. magazine’s web site. In it Berger, states the following: “I think people can rally around a question more than a statement. A question tells you we are on a journey together: ‘How might we use robotics to make the world a better place?’ A statement says we’ve done it already: ‘We use robotics to make the world a better place.’ The statement is a little arrogant and maybe a little bit of a false claim. The question declares the great thing you want to do with your company. It’s much more empowering.” which is just so much B.S. Why? Because the statement that you make in regards to the robots, if you want to indicate a mission or a journey (because missions are journeys that have a purpose to be accomplished) is not “We use robotics to make the world a better place”, but “WE WILL MAKE ROBOTS TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE”. That is both a statement and the indication of a journey. It says that you won’t stop at just one, it implies that you will continue to expand and innovate. Berger was giving a false choice. The issue of using a question was B.S., misdirection, and yet he presented it as if that was the only other option. That’s what innovation hypesters do because just as in this case, they don’t know the answers. But another point occurred to me. Berger made that statement in regards to how to get people to rally around something. I don’t remember any great leader, good or bad, rallying people with questions. As a World War II researcher I remember Winston Churchill’s brave speech of how the British would meet the enemy and fight.
I never remember Hitler getting the German people to rally around the Nazi cause by asking questions, he made statements. Because I don’t have such musings in my head, I decided to look up some quotes. I found no questions, that’s for sure, but of the many statements in relation to the German people, I found one quite in tune to Berger’s comments: “A car for the people, an affordable Volkswagen, would bring great joy to the masses and the problems of building such a car must be faced with courage.” That was Hitler at the 1934 Berlin Auto Show. It almost sounds like a commercial. In fact, with just a little editing – “Introducing the affordable Volkswagen. A car for the people that, with courageous effort, will bring joy to the masses when built…” I wonder what der Fuhrer would have thought about this Volkswagen ad made so many years later –
This stuff is easy for me to see because I haven’t spent the last forty years blabbing to people about innovation – I spent that time doing it. Many times it was on tight time schedules and under the gun. I had to just make things happen, or I wasn’t going to eat that month except Cream of Wheat. So I know what it means to innovate, I know what it means to have to do it where failure wasn’t fast or smart it wasn’t even an option, and I know where creativity comes from because it was my job to use it all, better, faster and on a higher level in order to match the demands that were put on me. That’s a lot different from someone whose only resume entries are for how many seminar and keynotes they’ve given. I do this blog to get the word out about what’s really going on. When I do a seminar I charge a pretty penny for it because what I’m going to train those attending, they can’t get from anywhere else, and it will save them time, money, and resources. But you know what? I’m not going to turn it into a cottage industry because there’s no point. When they take my seminar they’ll know everything I do on the subject. You see, I’m still going to make money doing innovations – alot more than I ever would speaking about it because that’s how good I am at doing them. I have no vested interest in stringing people along for a ride. Its just like that old saying – “Those that do, do. Those that can’t, yap about it”.
In the video below is a perfect example of how people like Deb will manipulate words and ideas to misdirect you. She talks about RCUS – Random Collision of Unusual Suspects. She claims, and I quote “this is when innovation really happens”. NO, IT’S NOT! It is only one way and not even the best way and for a very good reason – if that’s what you’re relying on to get an innovation, then guess what? You’re competition, who knows what I train people to do, will beat you to it because they don’t have to wait around until they collide with the right other person, they’ll have the training to get the job done themselves. This is what I mean by these innovation promoters making things up to make-up for the fact that they really don’t have the answers. Anyone that knows anything at all about creativity and innovation knows that partnerships and collaboration can produce new ideas. But do you want to rely on that alone? You would if you really believed what Deb said. Oh, we have to find other people or we can’t innovate. Meanwhile look at the historical record. Tesla didn’t do that. Leonardo Di Vinci didn’t as far as I know. The man that creatively inspired me in my teens – Todd Rundgren, didn’t. You might say, “But they’re geniuses!” to which I would say, “So? Wouldn’t you like to at least think on a higher level than you do and at least be on the same highway as them, if not moving at the same speed?” because I’ll tell you right now, these innovation hypers don’t promote anything remotely like being on that road, I can tell you that for sure.
So where the rubber meets the road is when the decision is made – do you wanna listen to little Debbie, who uses semantics and word misdirection to make her seem like she knows more than she does, or somebody that shoots straight, gives it to you the way it is and has the track record of doing game changing innovation against all the odds? Let me put it this way. In rock’n’roll, which is part of my background, if you play guitar you have choice. You can concentrate on just playing rhythm and making sure the group has a good solid sound or you can take on the challenge of playing lead. Lead guitarist get most of the attention. They also have the responsibility of creating good improvisations that will keep that attention and invigorate the crowd. But the best guitarists are really good at both. They can be counted on to do the flashy riffs but they can also hang back and do rhythm well. In fact, in some cases, they have to do both because they’re the only guitarist in the band, like Joe Walsh was with the James Gang or Todd Rundgren has been many times. The point is being versatile, but it is the lead player that can be flashy and handle the rhythm that is the best player, not the one who can only do rhythm.
Let me put it another way – in the overall scheme of things, a successful group must have a dedicated songwriter who can be counted on to write some hits. That doesn’t mean that the others can’t do it sometime or contribute, but if a band doesn’t have at least one person who can deliver on demand, that’s a problem. That person, is the most valuable player in the group because he or she’s contributing to making a lot more money than they would otherwise. The point is, collaboration can’t be relied on, groupthink cannot be the main creative mechanism because sometimes things just don’t click. Someone has to be the wiz, the visionary who can do it alone if need be. It’s better if you have a team that can do it but the likelihood of a random team coming together where the each have that wiz skill, is rare unless they’ve been trained. That’s the missing link in all this innovation hype – the lack of effective training because the promoters have no frickin’ idea how to do it. So they invent gimmicks, buzz words and other distractions instead of focusing on what you need to really get down to business. Despite what Ms. Mills-Scofield may think, the answer is it’s still about answers, it will always be about answers – even if you want to question the answers, in the end it’s about answers. And no fuzzy wuzzy, feel good guru is going to change that. You can have all the questions you want, but the purpose of questions is to get answers so you can act on them. Period.