Sustainable Innovation Pacing

Day 61 Week 9 Q1  Thursday, March 2, 2023

Pacing is different from preparation. Imagine you were a marathon runner; this is very different from being a sprinter. Sprinters tend to have fast-twitch muscle fibers. Creative outliers come in many flavors. Some are marathoners, and some are sprinters. Creative outliers are not always the most patient people in the world. Innovators, on the other hand, are. Innovation is a long-distance slog that can be very difficult for fast-twitch people. Innovators tend to have visions, which generally take a while before they become valuable.

Assuming you may get excited quickly and see extremely clearly everything you think is needed to get from point A to point B. You also may assume that you have no competition and other comfortable fantasies. Unfortunately, you do have competition, and some things always take longer than you expected and sometimes a lot longer. Perhaps much longer than your attention span!

For me, it is much easier to start than finish. I know that I am not alone in being addicted to steep learning curves. Many of my creative outlier brothers and sisters have this tendency as well.  We look around and say – oh, this can be much better than it is.  And I can easily make this change occur. Hey, I know it looks that way. There are loads of things that I thought were right around the corner which took decades to occur. 

Hey, when you go to college for a long time and study cool things like digital signal processing, artificial intelligence and electroacoustics, you and all of your colleagues expect things like speech recognition, noise cancellation and machine learning to be brought around the corner. When you have the good fortune to work in exceptional places full of creative, intelligent people like Apple, Bose and DARPA, everything looks possible. Also, as these are innovation cultures, these positive beliefs are also widely encouraged.

When everyone you eat lunch with thinks the future is next Monday instead of next decade, you tend to become biased. But let me gently inform you that almost everything wonderful takes longer than you expect, so you have to pace yourself. Innovation is more like a marathon than a sprint. It may look really fast to the uninitiated and to this who are not excepting it but to those of us who are inventing things, well, we suffer from sensory time dilation. This is when time moves at a different rate for people in different reference frames.

I know many people who tend to work on more than one project at a time so that when open of them is dragging, they can switch their attention to riding a horse that is moving instead of standing still. Whatever strategy you develop, know that you will need one for innovation does require pacing!