Sunday, February 8, 2009

A couple of great reminders this weekend.

This is not news. But I felt like acknowledging a couple of strong reminders I was fortunate to get this weekend on the subject of innovation.

First was Saturday when I was asked to serve as a tasting judge at a Barista competition leading up to the SCA nationals in Chicago in two weeks. The second was Sunday night watching the Grammys.

Both cases served as strong, tangible, tastable examples of the axiom that Innovation happens at the edges, the intersections, and that play is a potent force not to be taken lightly.

Examples: Radiohead+ the Trojan Marching Band. Sarah's garlic espresso, with vanilla bean, pepper and lime. Yes, the music and food world's have always been open to and encouraging of unlikely marriages and duets. Some fail. But a surprising number work. And when they do, they delight. Think Robert Plant+Allison Krauss+T-Bone Burnett. Bob Dylan+Will I. Am. Or an Indian-inspired "Sugar 'n Spice" espresso with habanero chile peppers and crushed rock sugar.

In business settings, rarely do we take the risk to mash-up elements of such differing style and origin. Maybe if we took our business selves a little less seriously, and consciously worked at allowing play to take over more, our efforts at innovation would feel less forced, and come more naturally. And the results would be more joyful.

Again, no great breakthrough. These things are known. But like any other discipline, it takes conscious effort --and reminders-- to put them into action. Tomorrow, I'm going to look for an unlikely pairing. And see what happens. How about you?

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