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Innovation Quality is a Virtue

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
3 min read
Innovation Quality is a Virtue

I was looking through some of my old idea notebooks and came across a quote that I wrote down. It is one of those quotes that cause you to pause and contemplate. To question your own personal motivations. The quote?

“Institutions, like vineyards, should be judged by the quality of their vintages.”

Its worth think about, isn’t it?

“Institutions, like vineyards, should be judged by the quality of their vintages.” An institutions impact should be measured over time just as it takes years if not decades to truly know what the quality of the vintages of a vineyard.

You can apply this quote to businesses, schools, universities, charities, a church, a family or a country.

I, for one, would rather be connected to an organization that puts out a really great product than an organization that is turning out ordinary products or services.

The ability to produce a great product or service is tied the inherent drive to quality from the team that builds it.

There is nothing more important than to instill in our ourselves, our children and grandchildren than a love for quality sake. We instinctively look for it in others and admire it when we find it. We want it from the people who deliver the products and services we use. We want it in the education of our children, in the medical care we receive, in the food we eat, in the car we drive, in the clothes we wear, in the books and newspapers we read and in the podcasts we listen to.

Quality puts the value into everything. And because we admire it so much, we should most certainly demand it of ourselves in everything we do, because it is what gives us the value that others want from us, too.

But we must not stop at ourselves but help those around us to recognize the importance of quality. The result would be a rising up of quality to the benefit of everyone.

This reminds me of a story …..

I grew up in Illinois where we are famous for our “Super Sweet” corn - so we know a thing a two about corn. There once was a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon.

One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.

"How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?" the reporter asked.

"Why sir," said the farmer, "didn't you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn."

He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor's corn also improves.

The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn.

So it is with our lives. If we are to improve our quality, we need others around us to improve theirs. And quality is not limited to just a few high profile jobs. There are no unimportant jobs. There isn’t a job of any sort where the quality will not reflect on the person performing the task.

Quality is not something you can fake. Time exposes the lack of quality like the geological strata of a canyon. Someone who does not deliver quality to the level expected will be found out. People instinctively know and respect quality when they find it -- or turn away when they are disappointed when they don’t find the quality they expected.

So - are you delivering quality in everything we do? Are you helping those around us deliver quality? Or -- are you trying to get by with delivering just the minimum required?

Joel Weldon says it best. “What you value is what you think and talk about. And what you think and talk about is what you become.”

Thus why I’m talking about quality. You and I need to hold ourselves and each other to the expectation that high quality is what we will deliver in everything we do.

Before you say something is done, you need to ask yourself, “Is this up to my standards of quality?”

And because the quality is more of a journey than a destination, you should never stop asking ourselves, “How can I improve on the quality of what I do?”

This is Phil McKinney and thanks for listening.


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Phil McKinney is an innovator, podcaster, author, and speaker. He is the retired CTO of HP. Phil's book, Beyond The Obvious, shares his expertise and lessons learned on innovation and creativity.


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