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The Overlooked Secret to Innovation

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
3 min read
The Overlooked Secret to Innovation

As a society, we have a problem.

Some years ago, the late Nobel Prize winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer was asked by a reporter, “Doctor, what’s wrong with people today?” The famous doctor was silent for a moment, then he said, “People simply don’t think!”

Why do some not use our brains and think? The brain is a fabulous mechanism. It is capable of processing eight hundred inputs per second for seventy-five years without exhausting itself.

Scientists tell us that humans use approximately 2 percent of the brainpower available to us. We are all equal. We all have the same 2%.

As a society, some of us have chosen not to use this powerful tool. We let others do our thinking for us. Why?


Rollo May, the distinguished psychiatrist, wrote a book called “Man’s Search From Himself,” and in the book, he says, “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice .. it is conformity.” And there you have the reason why some people choose not to think for themselves. Conformity.

[QUOTE] If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking. [QUOTE]

They handed over their ability to succeed and fail by conforming to others. Conformity allows them to coast through life or so they believe. They wonder why they are not as successful as others.

Have you wondered why innovators are different? Innovators are anything but conformists - coasters. Innovators are driven to solve problems, to invent, to make life better for everyone.

Why do innovators seem to have the magic touch? Why are Elon Musk or Dean Kamin so successful? They didn’t start out as billionaires. They started out just like the rest of us.

Being a highly successful innovator is available to everyone. No constraint. No skill or ability beyond what you have available to you right now.

Overlooked Secret

So what is the overlooked secret to being a successful innovator?

Having goals. Innovators with goals succeed because they know where they are going. They have a focus to apply their 2% of brainpower.

Think of driving a car. If every time you come to a red light you make a left turn, green light you go straight, and at stop signs, you turn right. Where would you end up after driving for an hour? Who knows. Your path is randomly chosen by the timing of lights and the appearance of stop signs.

If on the other hand, you have a destination and load the address into the GPS. You now have a plan to get there. While you may run into obstacles such as traffic or road closures, you can adjust your plan and still arrive at your destination.

Having a goal, like a destination, is the overlooked secret to success for innovators. Without it, your success is based on random chance.

So decide now. What is it you want? Plant your goal in your mind and commit to applying your brain’s 2% to achieving it.

Do you want to invent a solution to a specific problem? Do you want to be an entrepreneur and start a business around one of your innovations? Do you want to be a famous innovation coach?

To succeed, commit to that goal. Reflect on it every day, and it will become a reality.

It not only will -- there is no way it cannot become real.

Don’t Settle For Less

We are where we are, because we were willing to settle for less. What is it you are settling for? Each of us lives off the fruit of our goals, because the goals set today, tomorrow, next month, and next year will move your life and determine your future. You are guided by your goals.

The moment you decide on your innovation goal, you are instantly stepping ahead of most everyone else, and you are in that rare group of people who know where you are going. You have set your destination.

Do not concern yourself on how you are going to achieve your goal. Leave that to your human ingenuity, and the power of the self-conscious. All you have to do is know where you are going. The answers as to what to do next will come to you at just the right time.

Setting a goal and having the tenacity to stick with it is hard. Conformity will look easy while sticking to your goal will have its struggles and frustrations.

As Frederick Crane said, “Individuality is the mark of genius. Mediocrity finds safety in conformity.”

You deserve what you are willing to settle for. Are you willing to be mediocre or are you out to change the world with your ideas?


Phil McKinney Twitter

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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