Shift Happens!® when you burn your boats.
What I know for sure is that to be innovative you have to be distrubtive to Business As Usual. Steve Jobs, Lee Iaccoa, Henry Ford all changed the status quo to enable shifts in their business. Throughout history there have been those people that ‘burned their boats’ in order to shift thinking.
This is the last month of the year. It’s time for thanksgiving, reflection, and forward thinking. It’s time for you to stop shoulding all over yourself and start ‘shifting’ all over your organization.
Innovation is often regarded as a journey of disruption and discovery.
Small steps or large, shift happens when it’s purpose is locating and conquering new innovation territory.
When incremental explorations are not enough though, it might be time to sail off the map because only then Shift Happens!
Cortez the explorer could not get his men to follow him into a conquest of Mexico because they wanted to go home. ..so he burned their boats.
In 1492 Columbus sailed off the map and thought he discovered a western route to the East. He called the inhabitants Indians being sure that he had reached the Indies. Actually he landed at Watling Island in the Bahamas and discovered the Americas. It made him one of the most famous explorers of our times.
He had left Palos de la Frontera (Spain) on August 3, 1492 with three ships: The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. They carried provisions for a year. Columbus informed his crew deliberately wrong about the distances they had sailed, to give them the impression to be closer to home than in reality. After several weeks, having sailed off the map, the crew of the three ships was actually terrified. Columbus faced a revolt only several days before reaching the shore of what he believed were ‘The Indies’. His men were afraid that they would never be able to get back.He persisted in find to break through to the Indies by sailing west. He made four journeys, initiating the process of Spanish colonization. It was clear to everyone though, except himself, that he did not find the Indies but a ‘New World’. His failure was his greatest success.
So what were the conditions for Columbus having the innovative insight to sail off the map?
- Columbus himself was a kind of outsider. He came from Genua with unclear roots and had nothing to lose.
- Potential profits were a strong motive. His trip was an investment and not an exploration journey. He had an agreement with the monarch that if he succeeded, he would get a cut of all the proceeds of their discovery³.
- The road to the East was cut off to European traders due to the fall of Constantinople to the Turks. If you wanted to make a fortune you had to find a new route.
- New techniques of navigation, better knowledge of Atlantic currents and the development of caravels made it possible to sail much closer to the wind.
- A new era of Renaissance, which originated in Florence, encouraged new ideas.
So if you notice that small steps are not working any more in your business, your organization needs to innovate. Burn your boats. Take risks. Understand that failure may help you to succeed.
What will it take to sail off your own map successfully?
- Urgency. There must be urgency otherwise innovation is considered as playtime and nobody will be prepared to go ‘inside’ the box. If this is not the case: be patient until your organization is ready.
- If you follow your passion and feel the urgency you will go beyond your limits. Innovate like you’ve got nothing to lose, like Columbus. Innovate like your life depended on it, like Cortez.
- New Technology. Look for unproven means like new technology, new media and new business models to reach your goal. This includes social media. If not now…when?
- Teamwork. Invite people for whom the challenge is personally relevant. And invite both people for content as for decision-making reasons to create internal supporters. A new idea will flourish better with a lot of fathers and mothers to raise their children.
- Along the way there are always major setbacks. And you and your team will, like Columbus, Cortez, Jobs, Ford, be scared ‘shiftless’ sometimes.
- Persevere like famous explorers did before you. Put one step in front of the other and try to make shift happen.
And because it’s the time for giving, I have included a PDF that you can print out to create your own ‘boat burning’ principles. Use them as bookmarks, place holders,a nd thought starters. Give them to your staff, your friends, and others so that they can join you on your Journey To Bright Ideas.