In business, odds are stacked against any company when navigating growth, competition, disruption and cultural maintenance. An edge can be gained from being better informed… sort of like the Moneyball approach.
But it’s much more that, as author and luminary Steven Johnson showed us at BIA/Kelsey ENGAGE. There are strange behaviors that emerge in organizations that can breed innovation and idea generation if harnessed.
It first goes back to 17th-century London cafes, whose rise was an under-recognized catalyst for The Enlightenment. This comically sprung from the unprecedented access to coffee and tea… substituting booze.
“All of a sudden, the population goes from drinking a depressant all day long, to drinking a stimulant.” he said. “And no surprise, there was a flowering of industrial and intellectual activity at the moment that shift happened.”
But moreover, these became places where “ideas can have sex with each other.” Such collaborative environments — where innovation shares the same air — is a key lesson for companies facing disruption.
This leads into the impetus for carving out innovation labs, as we discussed earlier in the conference. There, companies can empower individuals to run, without being held back by cultural inertia and innovator’s dilemma.
These are classic syndromes of disrupted industries like traditional media. But all of this was only one of Johnson’s many-leveled takeaways about business, innovation and finding creative solutions to vexing problems.
You can see the entire talk embedded below, including lots of other tidbits from his latest book, How We Got to Now. It’s every bit as educational and enlightening as the author and frequent TED speaker is known to be.