Template mentality does not equal innovation

imaginationWell, well, well. My rant about innovation consultants hit a nerve. In particular, I liked this response from Roger von Oech:

The problem with reading books and then going out and suggesting what they say to do, is that by the time those books come out, the techniques or strategies that they suggest are already a best practice. And, you already know what I think about “best practice thinking”. Also, business books don’t really teach you how to think. At best, they tell you what to think. On top of that, humans are not very good at understanding context. What works in Cancun is not going to work in New York. There are cultural differences, even within countries.

Another issue I see, is that templates, like all ideas, reach their expiration date:

Since I’ve been writing, I think I’ve only mentioned templates/frameworks twice. It is not that I dislike using them. It is just that a certain point, people will start drawing the same conclusions from using them. A template shouldn’t help me confirm the obvious. It should help me see what I’m missing. Also, if you do your homework and break them down, you will notice that most of these templates/frameworks are just re-wordings/combinations of previous ones.

Do templates ignite imagination? Where are Einstein’s templates? Da Vinci’s? Where are they? Who’s been using them?

Templates make consultants a lot of money because it helps with the teaching and advising, and they help create a common language between people. This is a big win because it is a signal that you’ve done some thinking. Yet, there aren’t a lot of people celebrating consultants. Did you ever hear Steve Jobs celebrate them? Did consultants advise Walt Disney to create a family theme park? Nope.

I organize Startup Weekend’s in Tijuana. The 3rd one was three weeks ago. The business model canvas has been a SW tool for quite a while now. But on this last event, I saw a new tool make its way into the conversation: the value proposition canvas.

Most of the participants have never heard of these tools. I’m not discarding their usefulness, but for the most part, they are there to structure thinking. I’ve seen organizers dump these tools at the beginning of the event when participants are in divergence mode! They clearly don’t know what they are doing…

Naturally, there are some of us who are more “Gung-ho” than others and kick these templates to the curve. We are more inclined to go out into the real world and put our ideas into action.

Bottom line: Templates don’t fill you with courage. Though some templates will help you see more options, they won’t help you decide to go for it. To do that, you need courage.

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