Sustainable Innovation Arc Part 1

Day 159 Week 23 Q2 Friday, June 9, 2023

There is a clear path to go all of the ways from being a creative outlier to a sustainable innovator, and as there are two distinct phases involved, this is the first of a two-part block posting, with the second part to follow tomorrow.

The two phases are traction and scalability. Imagine that you were on a boat and you were trying to get it to a boat launch, but your car was parked in very slippery mud. Your wheels must have traction before pulling your boat’s trailer. The same is true for creative outliers. When these creative outliers also happen to be entrepreneurs who have come up with a new concept that is either a technical breakthrough or a new business model. You do not have traction until someone somewhere adopts a manifestation of your brilliant insight. And for the most part, all investors, which has some level, including all stakeholders, would like to minimize the risk.  The best way for stakeholders to reduce the risk is to be able to witness the successful adoption of the new concept. It does not need to be widely adopted, for that is what scaling is about, but it does have to be adopted by at least someone and preferably more than one person.

New ideas, enterprises, and models cannot be scaled until they are first adopted, and they cannot be adopted unless you have some traction and have stopped slipping and sliding around in the mud. Therefore, the first step toward becoming a sustainable innovator is to have traction or an existence theorem to de-risk the assertion of widespread adoption.

It may seem like a person can just write and publish a book, go out and celebrate in copies, and therefore have it be widely embraced. This is the equivalent of adoption and of having successfully scaled to a large audience. But it is fallacious to believe this is a possibility because before a large number of people read and love something, a small number of people have to read and love it. Before you make $1 billion, you have to make $1 million. Before winning a race, you must be able to drive the vehicle or boat or whatever you’re racing with, even if it’s your body. You have to stop slipping and sliding around and have enough traction to be able to move confidently in a particular direction, and this has to proceed with external funding and stakeholders. No one wants to invest in somebody who looks like they’re sliding around and, therefore, cannot predict when they will break free and have enough traction to move. Having an idea is not enough; it needs to be emotionally relevant enough to someone somewhere for them to embrace it. Until you have Tracktion, there is no point in even discussing scalability.