Thursday, May 21, 2015

Live from the Front End of Innovation 2015: Miki Agrawal on Doing Cool S*ht

I have some good news, and some bad news. Since this is Miki Agrawal's talk, bad news first:

Bad news: You haven't changed the world enough.

Good news: You have the opportunity to learn how you can do more from Miki Agrawal.

Thing 1: Sh*t happens -- now go make something of it.

Miki told a number of stories about the challenges that she faced, ranging from embarrassing moments to pains in the...well, I'd say to use your imagination, but you'd rather not. Of course, that's the whole problem: people are not willing to imagine these pains, and they are not willing to discuss them. Instead of facing pains, talking about them frankly, and coming up with solutions, they just "don't go there." What Miki has done, however, is convene teams and make companies whose products assuage these pains, and our bodies, kids, lives, and environment are the better for it. To guide people on how to do likewise, she wrote a fun book on the subject.

Thing 2: It takes 10 years to be an overnight success.

Eddie Cantor may have originally set the bar at 20 years, but these days things go a bit faster. Even still, you are going to have to hustle for years without making a huge impact, lay the groundwork, do the scut, and believe in a future that hasn't been proven to exist (even though it should). It takes an incredible amount of grit to make this happen (so make sure it's something you can stay passionate about), and this is why so many conservative businesses, though they make money, have not significantly changed the world (and likely never will). But, if you can find something you believe in, and demonstrate that others believe in it, too, you can create a market for your solution to a painful problem.

Thing 3: Bring value first.

A prodigious number of people are concerned primarily with what they get, such as the money they expect to make. This approach may be profitable (even if it does have the potential side effect of making people look like jerks), but it is not impactful. As a consequence, the approach is not that innovative, and unlikely to be as tremendously profitable as a disruption or innovation. If you want to make a difference, you need to begin by focusing on the value that you can bring to others. In the industry parlance, this is about empathizing with customers and clients, understanding their pains, and bringing them value in the form of solutions. Be it in networking or product design, there is a key question that should kick off the conversation, "What can I do for you?"

At no point in Agrawal's talk did she say that any of this was easy, and in fact highlighted just how hard it is. The bad news is that changing the world is not for the faint of heart, but rather for those with the strength to be humble enough to dedicate themselves to a cause that affects both themselves and many others. But, everyone has the capacity to do something extraordinary.

That's good news.


About the author
Orin C. Davis is a self-actualization engineer who enables people to do and be their best. His consulting focuses on making workplaces great places to work, and his research is on flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. In addition to being the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory, the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark, a science advisor at Happify, and an advisor at FutureIdeas. Dr. Davis is an adjunct professor of Psychology and Management at Baruch College and a lecturer in Critical and Creative Thinking at UMass Boston. He writes and speaks avidly about human capital, creativity and innovation, and positive psychology. (@DrOrinDavis)

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