Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Means to an End

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

“It has always seemed strange to me,” said Doc. “The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.” - from Cannery Row (1945) by John Steinbeck

It’s a fallacy of sorts to suggest companies strive to be innovative. In reality, innovation is a means to an end. If deliberately being an idiot led to financial success, companies would strive to be idiots. Innovation has been shown to cultivate success however, and thus we’re driven to innovate.

But don’t be fooled. It is success we seek. Monetary success. Not innovation.

It’s understandable that we veil our true motivations in the cocoon of innovation. It certainly seems like a more noble pursuit than basic financial gain – which is often too closely connected with greed. I don’t question the financial necessity of our economic engine and this basic mentality. I can’t help wonder if socially beneficial products and services never see the light of day though because they don’t meet the proper short-term ROI requirements. What product and service decisions might we make if our primary evaluation criteria were not monetary?

New ideas fuel our individual and collective success. If there were a viable alternative to innovation as an economic driver I imagine we’d see more diversity in our efforts. If kindness, generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling were more lucrative endeavors, I imagine we’d see more diversity in our efforts. As it is, we’re all just a bunch of ideates.

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