Why the **** should I care about Innovation?!

Most people are so caught up in daily tasks they feel disconnected from innovation personally. Here's my answer to why they should care.

Okay, okay, the world is changing and AI will take our self-driving cars or something like that. I get it. Can I just update this spreadsheet and go home?

It's a sad reality that even though innovation is important to top brass, to the other 99% of the workforce, it's mostly a lot of hot air.

"I'm not worried about how the future of jobs is going to disrupt whatever... I just need to get this presentation done by Friday so my boss doesn't freak out on me." — Something someone has actually said to me.

Bill O'Connor, the Founder of the Autodesk Innovation Genome and Dean of the Vault Innovation Academy is a fan of saying,

"You ask everyone, 'Who thinks innovation is important?' All the hands go up. You ask, 'Who's an innovator?' All the hands go up. You ask, 'Who is innovating' All you hear is crickets."

We all have more than enough on our plate as it is, and it seems that every time someone writes a new article on innovation, management finds some new trend to latch onto that comprises the future of business that we all need to learn. Now we need design thinking, now we need agile, now we need to be futurists. Now all of our bosses want us to do all this extra work. Here's why they are right, and why you should care.

You think you're safe, but you're not.

We have a natural tendency to believe that innovation is something that happens in a box somewhere, affects other people, and is someone else's responsibility, but the truth is that if you aren't proactively thinking about how to improve the way you work, your job is already in jeopardy. Beyond the technology rapidly coming for all our jobs (see these handy graphics from Bloomberg to see how your job maps to risk), information is more accessible than ever making it easier to learn how to do a thing than ever before. Not only are the robots coming for our jobs, but the children are too! In today's world it's only a matter of time until innovation lands on everyone's desk, and it's not going to slow down; if anything it's accelerating. Innovation—at least in the sense of a thoughtful process by which to experiment and take intelligent risks—is our only hope for keeping pace.

Your company becomes more irrelevant every day.

Even if you are doing all you can to get better at your job, there are companies coming for your company. The last decade or so has been a constant parade of disruption. The underdog story has become so commonplace that I've honestly started rooting for Goliath, just for a change of pace. I don't really want the big guys to win, you just start to feel so bad for them... its hardly fair. One day you're the biggest toy retailer there ever was, next thing you know you are signing a phased liquidation plan. Not that the guy signing the deal is the victim. It was someone just like you, trying to get that spreadsheet in by Friday, then one Friday they learned that spreadsheet, and all their spreadsheets, were totally irrelevant.

If you want to have a job come the end of the year, you better hope that your company is doing everything that it can to move itself into the future. But don't go thinking that this rests with "them".

Innovation in the company starts with you.

Innovation isn't something your company does. It's something that happens on aggregate when you foster a culture of thoughtful experimentation and intelligent risk taking. Kodak, Blockbuster, Toys R' Us. What do they have in common? Not only did each go the way of the dinosaurs, but also each had plenty of opportunity to change course before the fall, but the cultural ills of the company prevented that from happening in time.

While giving a **** about innovation might feel a step removed from the spreadsheet you need to get in by Friday, the truth is that we are living in a new paradigm of constant change and flexibility. If you don't start caring about how to help your company innovate and win now, advocate on it's behalf, and pick up the mantle and charge forward, you are just one more element of drag that decides the ultimate success or failure of the company. You should care, because your future and that of the rest of your colleagues depends on it.

Live your life's work

Beyond the doom and gloom, there's one more reason why it makes sense to do the hard work of integrating more flexibility and experimentation into your work processes—it's fun to be the best. I get it that day-to-day its spreadsheets and presentations. But somewhere in there is an opportunity for work to be so much more than just a job. With all this new innovation it's going to be scary and disruptive (in the non-buzzwordy sense) to all of our lives. But we ultimately have the choice to let that terrify us into paralysis, or we can get out there and seize the opportunity to let this new paradigm of work be about more than a paycheck, and more about playing our role in creating something truly remarkable. We spend more hours at work than doing almost anything else we will do in our lifetime (except maybe sleep depending on the person). This is our chance to live our life's work, everyday.

So believe me, I know it's hard and we all feel as though we don't have enough hours in the day as it is. But we all need to find time to make the subtle shifts in our work habits away from the comfort of "the way it's always been done," and into the way of constant change. Surviving in the new paradigm of today ultimately calls on each of us to exercise leadership in our own lives, and over our small piece of the innovation pie. As we all start to do that, a future of work that integrates more experimentation and more creativity, might just end up being more fulfilling for us all.

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