The status quo police is back, the innovation killers, with yet another article about how we should embrace maintenance because innovation is overrated. Last year I put my two cents in on this same topic and argued that though innovation has become diluted and meaningless maintenance is overrated.
One reason why innovation has become meaningless is, thanks to the internet, millions of people can now produce goods, services and products for next to nothing. Though this is an innovation by itself compared to before when only a few organizations could create and produce, it also means most everything that is created is a lot of more of the same.
As I’ve stated before, most innovations are not disruptive. Still, maintainers argue that us innovators focus way too much on sci-fi ideas that will take years to materialize and that don’t increase the world’s productivity, therefore neglecting the stuff which keeps the world turning without losing its wheels. They have valid points but for innovators the challenges are many; mostly we focus on the wrong stuff to innovate.
For example, ask yourself these questions:
- Do we really need to develop a new toothbrush?
- Do we really need to develop new razors to shave?
- Do we really need more media content to keep us mindlessly staring at our screens?
- Do we really need shoes and sneakers with different colors to stand out in social settings?
- Do we really need premium water?
True innovation has become meaningless because creating new value is less about substance and more of a popularity contest with a strong bias for improving on what already works and for “get rich quick” ideas. All of the above ideas have been aided by clever advertising to make people believe they need all of this stuff. The truth is we don’t. Think about it, we could write down all the stuff that could be un-invented because we don’t really need it.
This is what happens when anyone can produce: Every once in a while you’ll get good stuff, but mostly it’s going to be a whole lot of crap because most people are not ambitious enough to tackle real challenges.
The group of people, like Elon Musk and his followers, tackling hard challenges is very small. While the group of people going after short-term get rich quick opportunities is huge; there’s bound to be a lot of stuff produced that nobody needs in the long-term.
Is there are solution to the madness?
Evolve or Die
Stagnation happens when we value stability over progress. So we have to be more thoughtful about what to innovate to avoid falling into the mindless and status quo trap. Ask yourself the following question to become more mindful and focused on what really matters: Am I contributing to the status quo?
The question by itself won’t solve the challenge, but it will help you get some perspective and overcome the tendency to jump in face first without thinking. You see, people are highly motivated to maintain the status quo. I know I keep coming back to this, but it’s true; you do it too.
Most people fear innovation because it eliminates what is, with no certainty for what could be. So we’re not going to stop mindless creation, and proposing to maintain the status quo means rejecting what makes us super human: to evolve, change and grow through exploration.
No matter how big, small, ambitious or not we are; we can all make a difference if we choose to challenge the status quo. Let’s stop being so selfish and think about the next generation of people. Remember: Innovation doesn’t respect tradition. Either you drive progress or you’re outpaced by those who do.
Bottom line: To put more emphasis on “maintaining” is to adopt a third world country mindset where stability is more important than progress. And, as history has shown us, that’s a recipe for stagnation.