What Does A Gorilla Have To Do With Innovation?


Nothing brings me greater joy than seeing someone create or attempt something new. In the past few days, I have been fortunate enough to experience this feeling several times over. The only term that comes to mind to describe this scenario is: innovation. I hope to encourage more people to innovate. I want others to experience that same joy. I have found that innovation occurs when we answer one or more of a series of questions.

How do I get started?
Answer this question and you will be well on your way. Writer’s block. Cold feet. These are symptoms of a deeper issue. Fear of success. Fear of the unknown. Once you overcome these fears and take your first step, the rest is downhill from there. If you want to write something new, put pen to paper and start writing. If you want to invent something new, start putting the pieces together. Still not sure? Learn something new. Watch a YouTube video. Read a book. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Why are we still doing the same thing that we have always been doing?
The story goes: A few years ago, a new Army private was training to join a howitzer team. A howitzer is an extremely large cannon that requires a three-man team to operate. The private was watching a team and taking notes to learn each role. The first team member opened the door and loaded the shell. The second team member closed the door and grabbed the firing cable. The third team member ran to a spot adjacent to the cannon and raised his arms to make a “T” shape. When the private asked the third team member why he was doing what he was doing, the team member stated, “Because that’s how it’s always been done.” Upon reviewing the procedures, the private found out that “the third team member is responsible for securing the cavalry’s horses.” Are you still “securing the horses” in 2016?

How can you make your life/people’s lives better?
I don’t think anyone can dispute the fact that Steve Jobs was an innovator. The Mac. The iPod. The iPhone. These products were all groundbreaking, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I want to highlight Steve Jobs’ marketing. He didn’t want to sell products. He realized that everyone wants to sell products, and that’s a race few people win. Instead, Jobs wanted to change the way people live their lives for the better. He wanted to put the power of computing in every home. He wanted to store thousands of songs in everyone’s pocket. He wanted to give everyone access to, well, the world. You might argue that his success and wealth came as a by-product of his innovative mindset. The saying goes: “If you help everyone else get what they want, you can have everything you want.”

What’s the “gorilla” in your world?
Bob Newhart (a different Bob Newhart), in his video Free Radicals of Innovation, details an experiment where a classroom full of students are asked to watch a group of individuals pass basketballs from one person to the next and to count the number of passes. At a certain point, a gorilla walks through the middle of the passes. When polled, only half of the students actually saw the gorilla. The point of the exercise is to show us that sometimes we can get so fixated on something that we can miss really great, really obvious solutions that are staring us in the face.

The world is a wonderful place. Imagine if everyone followed their dreams and unleashed their creative spirit. Start today. Do something different. Make someone’s life just a little bit better. Capitalize on something that’s been right in front of you the whole time.

TS Hamilton is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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