Sunday, December 21, 2008

Innovation and the human soul

Below is a section of a letter I recently sent to friends. I think too much time is spent on trying to "manage" innovation and not enough on trying to get out of the way so that the human soul can do what it does best.

"Emerson wrote that "Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other." What he meant, in part, is that although society does benefit from the accretion of knowledge, experience and technology, the true measure of society lies in the greatness and nobility of each individual human soul.

I have long believed that the primary impediment to innovation is the insistence of organizations and institutions on attenuating the connection between individual people and their souls. Institutions feel much more comfortable when we access only those parts of our souls that are deemed to support their mission. This process of occlusion begins when we are children, and, over time, we forget who we are and what we can achieve. When the need for innovation arises, we find that the only levers we know how to push are the ones we have been allowed to push in the past. Predictably, these yield only the solutions we have already produced. We can innovate only when we find a way to remove the occlusions of our soul, be they fears of failure, rules we have been taught, social mores or the like."

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