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Making innovation work for good. T:@inspirechilli

Thursday 23 February 2012

The Loneliness of the Long Distanced Thinker

People often say I have a great job title, Director of Innovation (my day job). Though I'd rather swap it for Dreams. They ask me, how do you  think of new things? Where do you get your ideas? Who do you read? What's the latest thing? What's in your head?

I have no idea.

 I enjoyed being told once on my arrival at an international conference that I had the worst photo of any speaker. I feel more like Andy Warhol. I'm not a director of anything. I'm just here, trying to find people to direct and innovate with me, rather than trying to innovate and direct people into an output.

The only innovators I have ever met where the young people we are trying to innovate for.

The only idea I have ever had I repeat endlessly, because human narrative has still not changed. We are a generation in the cusp, still feeling for the way out of the cave.

There is a rational approach to being an advantaged thinker.  But I'm not a rational person.  And I don't believe that rational approaches have got the Third sector very far, except to be an expert in the disadvantage that it should have eradicated.  Disadvantaging Industry reports and headlines hold no interest for me, I don't read them.

As an alterternative - what advantaged thinking should always try -  I can offer one of my secret stories.  What it is really like to be the Director of Innovation, atleast for 5 minutes. 

Taking an idea from conception into delivery is like carrying a candle across a waterless swimming pool without letting the light going out. You tread like on rice paper, you stumble in desperation, you nurture the flame like it’s your heart, you ache for the distance to be halved, you lose all sense of yourself in the determination to reach a moment you don’t yet understand, you realise the importance of the process between flowing unconsciousness and the grip of the ledge.  If you get there ever. If the light doesn’t go out first. If, on reaching what you think might be the end, you don’t realise it wasn’t the candle you had hoped for.  The crowd on the side of the pool never clap, will never encourage you on, will never crown you with anything but thorns.  As you crawl forwards, you catch glimpses of the status quo awarding medals to people for not changing the world. But still you continue, biting your lip. Driven not by performance targets, money, the absurd desire to make a difference like leaving a footprint in the sand, need, recognition, none of that.  You are the candle you are carrying. You are the idea you are trying to conceive. And the sooner you realise that the problems you seek to solve are already part of you, were you all along, the closer you will be to authenticity.  The loneliness of the long distance advantaged thinker is that you have to wear blinkers and refuse to listen to doubt; you have to wear thick skin to forget the criticism and ignorance placed around you; you have to suffer being short and long sighted in the same vision; you have to live each second with a remorseless snail-like passion to express something there are no words for; you have to ultimately stand outside of the ego you dress under titles and smart clothes, and hand the candle back to someone else, in the gift of realisation.  You have to dare to do all that, before someone blows you out like a dandelion.

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