Why The Innovator’s Dilemma is Everyone’s Dilemma (And How to Beat It)

by / ⠀Personal Branding Startup Advice / August 12, 2012

In reading The Innovator’s Dilemma, a business classic by Clayton M. Christensen, it ocurred to me that the same problems faced by business leaders are also at the root our regular-people problems.

Let’s face it. We have way too many regular-people problems.

In the book, Christensen describes how the most innovative and amazing technologies are usually taken up too late by big business — mostly because they aren’t profitable enough to be taken seriously.

Isn’t that the problem with our passion projects, too?

Hear me out.

Most of us know what we love to do. Playing basketball, sewing, writing, serving those in need — whatever our hearts desire. But we are too afraid to drop everything and pursue a career in those fields, right?

No shame in it. It’s a scary jump. Threatening thoughts cycle through our minds…

It’s not enough money. I won’t be able to party with friends or buy new things as much as I’d like. It’s not a prestigious career. What will everyone say?

All valid claims and worries. Except when they’re not.

The problem with all of those scary thoughts is that not one of them is about our own happiness. They’re all about pleasing other people.

News flash: you have a say in your own life.

Yes, you might be tight at the beginning, but why is that a bad thing? Spending money and pleasing others won’t keep you happy for long. Doing what you love will fulfill you in a way you never imagined. (That’s why I gave up shopping for the entire year. It feels awesome.)

But all that we’ve been taught points us in another direction. It directs us to follow the crowd and the crowd mentality. It teaches us exactly what we need to be unhappy. Osho explains:

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The collective mind is the lowest mind in the world — even so-called idiots are superior to the collective idiocy. It respects people, honors people if they go on insisting that the way of the collective mind is the only right way.

But If we assume that all information out there is wrong, what can we trust to guide us? How are we supposed to make decisions?

Could instinct be the answer? Could curiosity?

Christensen instructs the true innovator to make decisions by assuming that there is always something more to know. There is always something more to the puzzle, and probably another reason to prove you right or wrong.

The following quote by Nolan Bushnell explains this:

When Steve Jobs and I used to hang out, one of the things we used to talk about is innovation, and I told him, ‘Steve, if you believe in something, and you go into a room and there are 50 people there, and all 50 of them tell you that you’re crazy, stick with it. Stick with your project.

So, innovation is a little bit crazy? I don’t see why not.

Instead of following the crowd, we’re supposed to take our cues in the opposite way. That’s not what we’ve been taught and conditioned to do. We’ve learned to follow instructions and care deeply about what others think of us. We’ve been conditioned to stick to a tried and true path — never veering into more exciting and fruitful territories.

Holy boring existence, Batman!

Can you blame me for wanting out of this vicious cycle? I think you probably do, too. Let’s break out together.

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Beating the Innovator’s Dilemma — Your Game Plan

1. Reflect on what others want you to do. If you find that your intentions and actions are coming mostly from others, then take a moment to analyze if it fits with your overall goals. If it doesn’t, free yourself of that “you should” garbage.

Do your thing — you know it best!

2. Find a way to be useful. If you find a way to make your passion useful to people, there is no way you will go hungry. Chances are that people will find your interests interesting, too — it may just be a smaller group of people than you’d like. To make that group larger, turn your passion into something useful and practical.

Whether it’s what your brain produces in consulting services or what your hands can produce in physical products, find a way to make yourself useful to a broader audience.

3. Honor experiences over materials. There’s bound to be a trade-off when going the innovator’s route, which is a harder route than usual. You may not be able to buy all those luxury goods, but you can have access to some amazingly inspiring individuals and events.

Put whatever helps your mission first and foremost — definitely before buying those new shoes and sparkly new car. The experiences will be worth it.

What’s your take? Is the crowd always wrong? Is an unrealistic prediction of how much money we’ll make keeping us back from taking on our dreams?

Bio: Marcella Chamorro just released a book on authenticity in marketing, titled To Be or Like to Be, and she also writes for her blog on lifestyle & marketing. She is a blogger, speaker, and consultant based in Managua, Nicaragua, working on creating technologies to help people be more creative. Email: marcella(at)marcalabs.com

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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