Make Awesome Where Awesome Is Not

Cover of "Big"Every assumption is an innovation opportunity. The assumption that only a few of us is brave, creative and bold needs to be killed for everyone to make an impact in the Next Economy, one where most routine jobs will be delegated to algorithms and robots.

The only thing we can’t delegate, and shouldn’t, is that what makes us human: creativity.

One of my all-time favorite movies is Big, which stars Tom Hanks. It’s “must watch” for anybody who wants to drive creative thinking in their organization!


Because it makes fun of the status-quo that exists in established organizations. It shows the type of attitude necessary, and the leadership that understands that attitude, to make change happen. There are many scenes in the movie that shows what happens inside most established organizations when you throw a naive wrench into the day to day operation; someone that thinks and acts like a child.

For example Tom Hanks character, a child in an adult body, eventually gets promoted to VP of Product Development. His job is to “play with kids products and tell his bosses what he thinks”. Well, as such, he goes to a meeting and starts doing just that by questioning the status-quo; specifically: what’s fun about that?

Most of you will empathize with the “suit” giving the presentation and feeling good about himself. That’s how it’s supposed to be, right?

By asking “what’s fun about that?”, Tom Hanks character is looking for an idea to get excited about because if he doesn’t get excited, then their customers (kids) won’t either. That’s called having a point of view; something most established organizations don’t have because they begin to assume they do.

Asking questions, challenging assumptions, is not a common practice inside established organizations because, like the example in the movie, challenging the status-quo when everything is working should not be done.

If ain’t broke don’t fix it? Wrong!

To get to “I don’t get it” you need to go outside the building and immerse yourself in your customer’s lives. Again, Tom Hanks character walks into a toy store and starts playing with toys, which leads to this great scene:

If it isn’t broke, break it

This is a motto of mine (read my Twitter profile), #IfItIsntBrokeBreakIt, basically don’t wait for things to stop working to fix them; break things that work to see what would happen.

I advocate the idea of a CEGO, Chief Error Generation Officer, someone who throws a wrench into the day to day operation to see what happens; someone who deliberately keeps complacency at bay.

The best leaders are CEGO’s. It’s what separates innovative leadership from traditional keep-the-wheels-running leadership. Yes, stability is necessary to grow. But, be careful because with stability comes routine and that leads to complacency; the silent disease that slowly kills organizations.

So, what can you learn from the movie Big?

All innovators have a hungry mind which they feed by asking questions, observing their surroundings and experimenting with ideas; what Tom Hanks character does in the movie Big.

Also, innovators exhibit extreme traits in thinking that inform their unique point of view. For example, a few days ago I came across an interesting definition of innovation: Make awesome where awesome is not.

That’s great definition, coming from someone who’s had a unique way of doing business that doesn’t fit the traditional mold of how creative ideas are evaluated.

So, when evaluating ideas ask yourself: what’s awesome about that?

If it’s not awesome, make it awesome!

Bottom line: Challenge the status quo, become your customer and develop a point of view.