Outlier Flywheels

Day 347 Week 51 Q4  Tuesday, December 13, 2022

As mentioned yesterday, the main goal of SVIII is to help creative outliers become innovators.  One mechanism we have been using for a long time is the notion of creating a safe space for those with ideas to show up and express them.  In the past, our events were sometimes monthly and sometimes more often when supporting special initiatives.  One cardinal rule to ensure a safe space was to listen without criticizing. Discourse had to be civil; otherwise, the new ideas would never see the light of day. Many inventors and entrepreneurs showed up every month to explain what they were working on.  It turns out that people with new ideas have a hard time getting an audience, and this was a place where they could count on one that was supportive because it consisted of others like themselves.

In creating a safe space, we realized we had created a flywheel for outliers to engage in civil discourse regarding their new ideas, projects, businesses and artworks.  All people with new ideas benefit from showing up and getting out of their studios, laboratories and offices to get into a feedback loop with reality.  Having a periodic gathering which could be counted on ended up providing not only a safe space but also a deadline to get something done because there was an opportunity to share it.  This process had originated earlier within a group called the Coastal Creators that met weekly in half Moon Bay, California, at the home of the founder of SVII.

Woodworkers with pickup trucks brought their in-process sculptures, writers brought excerpts, and one person brought and performed the first versions of a rock opera.  It turns out that everybody benefits from having a deadline and an opportunity to show up.  To control the number of people who showed up, which grew to more than 40 on Wednesday nights, we added a second requirement in addition to civil discourse.  We added the requirement that everybody who attended show evidence of their creativity and not only talk about their dreams but show us some sort of progress which could have been as simple as a diagram indicating the next steps.  This acted as a filter and provided some pressure in the form of an expectation that attendees would not only have a place where they could physically show up but also that they had to show up creatively.

The Coastal Creators ran as an Outlier Flywheel for several years, ultimately evolving into the Silicon Valley Innovation Institute, now extending from a regional in-person process that began in 2005 also to include a virtual-international process. In-person local and virtual geographically distributed flywheels are currently operating.

Creative outliers do benefit from being supported by and by supporting other creative outliers. In addition to providing a place to show up, and an expectation to show up creatively, longer-term outcomes are also a focus. People have started new initiatives, careers, businesses, projects, and concerts of new works have been performed growing out of these flywheels. 

To summarize, the three legs of the solid flywheel stool are a safe place to show up, an expectation to show up creatively, and a longer-term view toward bringing into being something larger.