Innovation is stranger than fiction.


Innovation is stranger than fiction.

There are loads of predictions dating back to a time when the signals suggesting technologies we enjoy today weren’t so easy to see.

The phrase ‘throwing a spanner into the works’ is thought to have originated in PG Wodehouse’s Right Ho, Jeeves, published in 1934.

Not so long after that, Arthur C. Clarke started writing about his view of the future and eventually recorded a fascinating monologue for the BBC at the time of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. If you can spare 15 minutes, this is worth a listen. Clarke’s preoccupation with space travel and planet colonisation was topical then. The other concepts he describes, however, are very topical now.

The point of suggesting this isn’t to denigrate anyone’s’ view of what we can expect in our own futures, but to make the point that, among all the data we review to see the way forward, there is merit in looking back too.

Identifying trends that have resulted in commercial success today and seeing their inception occur is highly instructive. We can see how left-field macros informed product improvement and how to join the dots. We learn that diffusion of innovation is still a sound concept and we can see that disparate events are often joined abstractly if we take the time to look hard.

As Arthur C. Clarke said, the future is going to be better than we can imagine and is largely unpredictable. What he doesn’t say, is that the data available to us today as insight, gives us the opportunity to see market demand through a different lens and with a bit more clarity.

Not to look at the future of your business could be the spanner Wodehouse wrote of. The more radical your ideas are, the better. From the freedom to play and be ridiculous come the seeds of great breakthroughs.

Applying a bit of naivety to innovation is to ask the obvious question. We’re good at that. We never assume we know. We never assume our bias is correct and we always question yours – it lets us see the world with a different tint.

We believe that every business needs an innovation strategy. But then, it is what we do. Future thinking. Future proofing.

See Arthur C. Clarke speak here.

These videos are very evocative of a lost time but the extreme nature of the thinking demonstrated might make us think too.