Discover more from Steve Franks On Innovation
Innovation #9 - Fountains vs. Grass
Make a Difference
During my evening walk yesterday, I walked through Lakeside Park. It’s always a great place to stop, sit, and relax mid-walk. I can sit beside a pond, breathe, and clear my mind.
At first glance, it is easy to notice the pond’s fountain.
The fountain throws continual plumes of water into the air. They seem to be never-ending. From an innovation standpoint, the fountain has always seemed analogous to creativity - a never-ending supply of new ideas.
But yesterday I noticed something else. The fountain always pulls water from the same pond - and throws it back into the same pond - over and over again. The pond is essentially unchanged by all of the fountain’s activity.
In other words, I noticed that the fountain, despite all of its furious activity, wasn’t making a difference to the pond.
Also in front of me, though, was the grass growing on the pond’s edge.
It was visibly changing the landscape. I could see the growth along the shoreline, compared to the cut grass further back. It was rich, it was lush, it was thick. It had taken on a different life than the mowed grass. Growth had created something new and had changed the landscape. It was tangible. It was observable. I could see that over time it would grow to be even more rich and lush.
I think there is an analogy here to creativity versus innovation. Follow me on this - it may be a bit of a stretch, so please bear with me.
Merely spewing lots of ideas is different than growing or building something tangible. Creativity can spew ideas, but that won’t necessarily spark tangible change. Innovation implements ideas and always produces tangible growth and change.
It’s OK to be creative - innovation has to start somewhere. In ideation sessions, good innovators will create many more ideas than they will ever build out.
But, they don’t stop there. Innovators go on to build and bring their best new ideas to the world.
In the framework of the analogy, they do more than throw water into the air only for it to drop back into a pond. Like grass, they grow something that makes a noticeable difference to the landscape, to the world.
Be grass, not a fountain. Change your landscape for the better. Make a difference in the world.