If you’ve ever led through a season of innovation, you may have felt the pull to create something unique. When we make something special we feel ownership and pride. We feel smart and special. Just because something is unique doesn’t mean it’s effective.
Unique is fine. But great is better.
Great is better than unique.
Innovation is not always the discovery of something new, but the application of something that already exists in a new context. You do not have to be the first to market to be the best (in fact, being first can be a disadvantage).
Here’s the problem: We like our ideas. It’s very difficult to move past the pride of authorship (or to see pride in the mirror).
Over the last few months I’ve been wrestling with how to provide clarity for my team. I needed the right questions and the right clarifying statements to say where we are going. It was fun to wrestle through, and I felt pride and ownership about what I was creating. One day, my friend Tim sent me a half page “clarity document” he uses with his team.
His was better. That hurt my feelings (dangit, Tim!). Then I remembered my team doesn’t care if I came up with it. They care that it works. So, I ditched mine and used Tim’s (and gave him credit).
Your audience, customers, students, children, and employees don’t care if you came up with an idea. They want ideas that work. They know that better is… better.
If you’re a leader, the goal isn’t to have your name with that little copyright circle. Your goal is impact. The aim is to serve as many people as possible. The ambition is great.
Innovation is the experimentation towards a problem. Having your name on a thing is fun for a minute. Solving the problem you’re put on the planet to solve is fun for a lifetime.
Discovering unique often begins with asking, “What could we do that nobody else has done?”
Discovering great begins with, “Who else is doing this well? How can we learn from them?”
Don’t chase cool.
Don’t chase unique.
Go find great. Then, apply it.
Next week I’ll share the quote that bothered me most in 2020. Subscribe today and I’ll send it straight to your inbox.