Innovation and Creativity Are Not Safe
We walked into the conference space and were greeted with couches, beanbag chairs and small table groupings, not the typical rows of chairs I expected for a business conference. The day started with circus performers at the opening and following the performers our first keynote speaker, Everest Explorer Jamie Clarke. At one point he was laying on the couch on stage as he took us on a journey alongside him. Later that day, all 1500 of us found ourselves singing at the top of our lungs with Our Lady Peace lead singer Raine Maida for the purpose of stepping outside our comfort zone. Why on earth would a business conference take this approach? For the sake of taking risks to spark creativity and innovation. This was the ONWARD conference on innovation with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
I walked away from ONWARD with new inspiration from business leaders who have risked attempting what others thought impossible and who have created incredible results despite many failures along the way. I also walked away with key insights, some new and some reminders, about innovation.
Jamie Clarke, walked us through two journeys his quest to summit Everest that took him three attempts and his retail business Out There that eventually failed. Failures in both adventures he attributed to not clearly defining the mission.
Innovation should be cumulative and stand on the shoulders of the work of others before you. What is happening in your environment that will lead you to want to make a change? Henry Ford said “If I had asked my customers, they would have asked for faster horses.” What Ford did is look at what was happening around him and sought to innovate a solution to the problem.
When Jamie and his team sought to raise money early on for their Everest Expedition, they never asked “why” when people said no. There is huge learning and opportunity in asking why. In the heart of every mistake is data we can look at to learn from and that knowledge becomes powerful. They also didn’t ask for a lot of help in the beginning and over time learned that asking for help is an understanding of strength, not a sign of weakness. It’s recognition of someone else’s strengths and how they can use those strengths to help you and your mission move forward. It wasn’t until they asked for help and started asking why in failures that they were able to finally conquer Everest that also included some of the unlikely small details including more toilet paper and Pringles. The simple pleasures of life make a difference in motivation.
Once conquering Everest or any summit in life and business, we can be left searching for a new passion to strike us as a bolt out of the blue. Passion for him wasn’t about what you do but a way of living and reminded us that we can live passionately and pour our passion into different things. The consistency of simple elegant effort creates success, there are no unicorns, there are no shortcuts. Focus on what you can control, what you are trying to conquer is fear. Our fears are often far grander in our imaginations than in our reality. His parting words? On the far side of fear is freedom.
The topic of moving past fear to do it anyway was a theme throughout the day and Raine Maida brought it all together with his talk on Creativity. Raine Maida said, Creativity is not safe. Creativity asks you to be fearless. You have to lose the fear of being wrong in order to succeed. You have to take risks and fail all the time. This is where creativity comes.
Creativity sounds like:
- This is awesome
- This is tricky
- This sucks
- I suck
- This might be ok
- This is awesome
All of the speakers at ONWARD collectively shared with us in their own works: There are no unicorns, there are no shortcuts, you can’t skip the mess in the middle to get the to innovation and awesome on the other side.