Crisis Focus Innovation

Day 81 Week 12 Q1  Wednesday, March 22, 2023

A large part of innovation is focus, and nothing focuses the mind better than a crisis. Necessity is the mother of invention, but a crisis is the mother of prioritization. Creative outliers often have more ideas and options than others and more ideas than they can even use.

Innovators come from the population of creative outliers, and both of these groups are sometimes called gifted. I know Bay Manning, a philosopher, prefers to use the term “more” when referring to the gifted. The gifted have more ideas, more potential,  more options, and of course, more distractions.

The only way to address the “more” is with prioritization or focus. When you are involved in a crisis, everything drops away except what you must do to deal with it.  And I am not speaking of the crisis of schedule deadlines, but more serious ones like you are in danger and have to escape. 

Most of us have had situations with real danger and became focused really quickly. Unanticipated consequences of crisis can enrich our lives by showing us in no uncertain terms what we care about and what we need to do to survive. It also provides a window into what has the most meaning for us.  Even though most of us do not pursue crises, at least not consciously, they can be incredibly useful in terms of focus.

Focus is incredibly important to people with more of everything, especially ideas. The next time you encounter a crisis, look carefully to see what you can learn. We learn far more when things are not right. Success does not teach with the same urgency as a failure. And even though we appear to be living in a super-sizing more-is-better universe, it seems clear that more is not better. 

Innovation is qualitative, not quantitative. It is not about more. It is about better. There are no innovation units, so how can it be repeatably measured? We can measure mass, length, temperature and many things but innovation, not so much. Can we measure excellence or creativity, or meaningfulness? I do not think so, but a crisis focus clarifies what counts most. 

Physical crisis can clear away a lot of noise instantaneously. If you think you will die, most of what you were thinking about vanishes. When there is a fire or mudslide, and you must leave your home, what you take matters the most. Even if you are interested in multiple topics, consider the deathbed perspective. There are many ways short of an actual crisis to prioritize. How about imagining a crisis? What would you do? Who would you talk to? Where would you want to be? 

Can we focus our minds using the power of other people’s crises? Or prior crises of our own. What do you need the most? What do you think the word needs the most? Where do you think you can make the greatest contribution? 

Accelerate your focus using crises – real or imagined!