Diversification is Innovation

I like the idea and practice of innovation. Yes, I realize that innovate is the buzzword of the century, but there is something intriguing about growing, learning, finding new ways and products, with the intent to make money, spread a message and hopefully change the world.

Recently, I came across a new book by Stephen M. Shapiro called Best Practices Are Stupid, in which Shapiro presents 40 ways to “out-innovate the competition.” As I have been reading each tip, I have been thinking about how I can apply the information to my business and my life.

Today’s tip, “The difference between a pipeline and a sewer is what flows through it,” is about diversity, specifically four different types of innovation challenges: “Incremental Innovation, Adaptive Innovation, Technical Innovation and Radical Innovation.” Shapiro writes that it is important to¬†“manage your innovation pipeline the way you manage your personal investment portfolio” through diversification.¬†Incremental Innovations are safe and yield returns. Adaptive Innovations may not be needed in the market, but are easy to create. Technical Innovations address known needs, but are difficult to fashion. Radical Innovations are the most risky in that there is an unknown need in the market and technically difficult to produce.

These four categories are great filters to apply to my life and my business, enabling me to get the pulse of where I am at, where I am going and where I want to be.

Incremental (Safe and Easy)

The safe and habitual practices that yield returns for my life have to do with friendships and relationships that have an absence of drama and are easy to maintain with limited to varied contact. Often those friendships are built around common interests and are easily picked up and set down when necessary. They yield results for myself as well as my friends.

I’m naturally drawn to reading about art and creativity, murder mystery and horror novels, and business books. With movies, I like comedies and dramas. Music, I’m partial to classic rock, metal and jazz. With these areas of my life, the results are purely quantitative. The more I consume, the more I say that I have accomplished. I don’t necessarily apply the knowledge attained in this category, but it is about entertainment, not enlightenment (although that can and will happen at times).

When it comes to business, my reputation for the work that I have created is a safe and reliable method of generating more work. It often involves me working through my current list, waiting for the emails and phone calls that do come with new projects and ideas. It is relying solely on the abilities, skills and equipment to produce work that I know that I can do without any reasonable doubt. This involves tasks like designing business cards and identity packages, website design and development, and product photography. Things that I have done for over a decade.

However, putting all my eggs into this basket would create a fairly shallow and empty life. That’s where the other categories come in, to systematically shake up my existence.

Adaptive (Risky and Easy)

I would say that my blog is adaptive. For the most part, daily writing comes easy, but is my blog really needed in the world? Probably not, but it is an expression of my individuality as well as my attempt to make sense of my life and the world that I share with others. I have been told by a select few that they enjoy reading my blog and in some ways, that keeps me pushing forward.

Another adaptive innovation is my Innovators of Vancouver video series. Not necessarily needed, but I enjoy producing the episodes, further learning the trade of short-form documentary filmmaking. I meet great people doing exciting things and it enriches my life.

In my life, I continue trying to find new and interesting things to read and watch that will enrich my life. It is risky to spend time reading a book or watching a movie, but it is easy, and there are things that could potentially be obtained that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

Technical (Safe and Complicated)

When it comes to the technical nature of running my business, I play it safe. I generally wait too long to update to new equipment and computers. I spend more time on the development of the content and the structure of the work, instead of the technical aspects regarding lighting, sound, editing, drawing, cinematography, symbolism, wordplay and marketing. The same with my life. I play it safe. I settle for less instead of working hard for more. I procrastinate. I avoid the complicated until I have to deal with it. That is safe.

I need more technical innovation in my life and my business because it involves taking time and energy to really look at the systems and processes of what I do and who I am, analyzing the results and experimenting to find new and better methods.

That could mean reaching out to people that I don’t know, but want to know and not worrying if they don’t reciprocate. It could mean applying the work that I do for others to my business in order to develop a better marketing strategy. It could mean taking more time to be experimental with lighting, cinematography, sound design, animation and drawing. It could even mean reading a challenging book on leadership or watching a documentary movie on economics.

Radical (Risky and Complicated)

Am I doing anything that is risky and complicated? This category is the toughest to apply to life and business because it involves stepping outside of your preconceived notions into a world that is daily changing. I would say that running a business by myself is risky and complicated, but is it radical? Same with marriage, is it a radical innovation for my life? How about graduate school in order to learn better business practices? Getting over my fears, specifically putting myself out on a limb and risking more than I have in the past? All of these are risky and radical, for me.

Of all the categories of innovation, radical innovation is the most subjective. It is 100% tied together with your individual and corporate identity, and that is the way it should be.

Radical innovation is finally learning who I want to work with and marketing to them. It is looking into funding new equipment to make better products. Continuing my education in a structure that would force me out of the introverted box that I put myself in the past few years. Staying devoted to my wife each day. Serving my friends. Volunteering. All of these are radical because they are messy, yet essential to bringing balance to the multi-faceted layers of reality that compose our lives.

How diverse is your life and the work that you do? Are you able to learn from a variety of sources or do you go to the same place, at the same time, to see that same things, hoping for different results? Apply these four filters to your life and see what happens. You might just out-innovate the competition and do something amazing with your life and business.