Innovation, the Beginners Mind and a Custom $1,000 Computer Keyboard
The Digital Leader Newsletter — Strategies and Techniques for Change Agents, Strategists, and Innovators.
The best inventors have a high level of expertise in a particular arena, and they simultaneously maintain a beginners' mind. And that's hard to do. But that's what you have to do if you want to invent and pioneer. — Jeff Bezos
There is no shortage of experts. World-class savants built from superior academic preparation, high IQs, equipped with vast experience and supporting resources. But yet…innovating evades most companies and these experts.
Even more absurd, consultants and strategists, best described as “generalists”, are often asked to assist these experts to innovate. I’ve made a career out of this. How can someone without the expertise, education, or IQ, help the experts innovate?
That is my everyday challenge. Here’s one technique generalists can add incredible value to experts — bring what they lack by bringing the beginner’s mindset and a nimble set of tools for powerful collaboration.
A Custom Computer Keyboard — Really??
A few weeks ago I was catching up with a longtime friend and former neighbor who runs a sizeable team at Microsoft. He made a significant impact on my career several years ago as he was the first to offer an invitation for a keynote. The Amazon Way was just released (2014) and he arranged an opportunity for an audience at Microsoft. He intuited the essence of my work — borrow the best leadership, culture, thinking, and operating elements from Amazon to help others innovate and compete.
We recently caught up on family and work. He mentioned his son is deeply involved in an industry I didn’t know existed. Not only didn’t I realize these products existed, but I also couldn’t imagine a vibrant customer market and community could exist. That market is a custom-made, high-end, designer, and branded computer keyboards and computer peripherals. “Are you kidding” was my fast-twitch response before I could pull it back. When he explained the products and how extensive this market and ecosystem are, I had to get him to say it again and explain it to me. “You mean there is a market for computer keyboards that run upwards of $1,000 or more?” My mind was blown. I should say, my “expert” mind was blown. I could not digest this new reality.