In the last installment of our Innovators story we saw three new Rules of Innovation emerge; Rule #7: Innovators Are Cheap, Rule #8: Commitment Versus Contribution, and Rule #9: Embrace Your Self – Confidence.
Rule # 7: Innovators Are Cheap
It isn’t so much that we are cheap as much as it’s we usually don’t have any money. Most Innovators find it difficult to hold a 9 to 5 job, or they are pouring every dime they have into the life of their new idea.Not having any cash flow is what really what forces us to be Innovative. The professional looking demonstration unit in the previous story was made from scraps of plywood and wallpaper. I was forced to become innovative about how I can solve the marketing presentation problem without any money. That keeps us continually Innovating.
The demo unit was scraps from my shop, the computer was borrowed from the store I worked at, the voice-activated speakerphone was the least expensive unit that Radio Shack sold, but it all looked professional. It looked like this was an off-the-shelf product tried-and-true product that had been around for years, which boosted the confidence in the viewers and potential buyers. Later we’ll talk about O.P.M. and the inherent dangers that come with Other Peoples Money.
Rule #8: Commitment Versus Contribution
Commitment Versus Contribution is something everyone has heard about, but until you really make a commitment where there’s no possibility of backing out or changing a date, you have no idea just how Innovative you really are. When I committed to that mid-February date to demonstrate the computer to Leon, I had no idea how important that was to the Invention of the system.
If there were no actual date, I might have simply postponed, not called around for solutions, or taken whatever time I thought I needed until either I eventually solved the challenge, lost interest, or Leon died. By promising that I would demonstrate a solution on that date and being committed to Jim, the doctors, my computer store, myself, and most importantly Leon, I didn’t have a choice. I was forced to perform. I had to be there on that date.
One morning I was in Portland, Oregon having breakfast at a Denny’s with a great friend of mine Zane Sealy. He was the person who invented Grab-On, the foam grips you see on hammers, bicycles handle bars, and tennis racquets and we were talking about the life of the Innovator. The subject of commitment came up, which he believed was critical to Innovation.
He asked me if I had ever heard of the commitment story about the “Chicken and the Pig”. When I told him I had not, he asked me to look down at my breakfast. He asked “What do you see?” I answered “Bacon and eggs, why?” He asked me “Who made the commitment and who made the contribution to that breakfast?” All of a sudden I understood. The chicken made the contribution with her egg, but the pig made the commitment to that meal with it’s life.
The idea was that unless you are somehow absolutely committed and have no other choice, you may not be forced to be your most Innovative. Commitment may be as simple as just giving your word, setting a date for delivery, taking someone’s check, or most often just your own personal debt. When I ran most of my start up companies of which number 8 now, I was usually $75,000 to $100,000 in personal debt. Talk about your motivators.
Without succeeding, I could never have recovered from that kind of personal debt. Every time I thought about quitting, my second thought was about how would I ever get out of debt. I quickly realized that success was my only option. Now, I’m not suggesting you run out and burn up your credit cards and home equity, but if you want to be successful, you do have to be committed.
Another analogy I thought of describing commitment was this. If you’ve ever been to a circus, you’ve seen the tightrope walker. He’s 100 feet in the air and walking that narrow, 1” rope without using a safety net. It’s terrifying. I wondered one day whether the world’s greatest tightrope walker doesn’t use a net because he’s the world’s greatest, or he’s the world’s greatest because he doesn’t use a net. Falling 100 feet is certainly a motivator to be your best and is certainly making a personal commitment.
Rule #9: Embrace Your Self-Confidence
Often the level of your commitment is tied directly to your level of self-confidence. The more you believe in yourself the more risk you will take on. The more risk you take on the more committed you become. The committed you become, the greater your chances will be at succeeding.
Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done. Like in the story when I was told by all of the experts and developers themselves it couldn’t be done, I asked myself if it can’t be done this way, then what way can it be done. The only way you can loose is to quit. Refer to Rule #1: Shift Your Perspective. Discard the way you are looking at the problem and try something entirely different.
Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results.” Get out of the box! Get out of the Nine Dots. Shift your perspective.
If you don’t understand what the Nine Dots are, then go to this link on my web site and take the simple little test.
Take a piece of paper and make nine dots, three rows of three dots about two inches apart. Then simply connect the nine dots using four straight lines. You can’t lift your pen and you can’t fold the paper (Innovative, but not allowed).
When you solve that, now try it again this time using only three lines. If you’re really feeling Innovative, then try solving it using only one line. If you can’t solve the Nine Dots challenge don’t feel bad no one can the first time they see it due to environmental conditioning (I’ll discuss this more later).
If you send me an email at LonSafko@LonSafko.com I’ll tell you how to find the solutions.
If you find the solution on your own, please email me and let me know you have. I keep a list of people like you!
Here’s something fun. My wife Sherrie whom also is an Innovator, said that “Thanks to my having to copy every videotape we had in storage to digital DVD format so the Smithsonian Institution could keep all of the originals, why don’t you further convert the videos and make them available on your web site for everyone to see?” Pretty Innovative! So I will!
I do need to apologize ahead of time about the quality of these videos. They video started out as mid 1980’s studio B-Roll, then transferred to ½” video tape, then they were allowed to cook in a storage container in a garage in Phoenix for about 20 years, then transferred to digital DVD’s, then converted again to .mov’s, then the size and quality was further reduced for Internet downloading, and voila’ you have this level of video quality.
If you would like to see the very first television news broadcast of this invention from April 29, 1986, please go to my web site at www.LonSafko.com. Here’s the NBC video of the world’s newscast of the SoftVoice Computer System for the disabled. Don’t laugh at the young engineer, he didn’t know any better!
World’s First SoftVoice NBC Newscast:
I hope you enjoy them!