Sunbirds and Gorillas

Dan Simons @ IdeaFestival 2011

Dan Simons @ IdeaFestival 2011

How do innovators create new value?

They first see what others don't.

From analogizing to reasoning from first principles to combining different concepts, "The Creator's Code" author Amy Wilkinson breaks down some of the strategies people like Elon Musk use to discover and develop new markets in a recent piece at LinkedIn.  "Find the Gap" reminded me of a great little book by Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein called "Sparks of Genius," which similarly focused on creative method - "modeling" and "observation" are two that come to mind - and linked those methods to particular outcomes in history, such as the discovery of penicillin.

Wilkinson's three types of innovators are "architects," "sunbirds" and "integrators."

As she stresses, domain expertise matters little to business entrepreneurs like Musk because they understand that new value is often created across domains. They think wide, not deep. They make connections. They are unsettled.

And just like Wilkinson's entrepreneurial examples, the IdeaFestival knows that the answers are everywhere.

There is of course the small matter of business execution to consider in order to bring these markets to life, but without vision in the beginning, nothing else matters. Wilkinson's linking of methods and outcomes appeals to me because 1) the methods she describes are accessible to all and 2) they are used everyday by creators in the arts and sciences, as well as business. Without an ability connect very different dots, change tends toward the transactional, not the transformational.

Can you see what's there to see?

Stay curious.

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Image of "Invisible Gorilla" author Daniel Simons at IdeaFestival 2011, Geoff Oliver Bugbee