Write Your Own Map

Here’s a strange thing that I’ve noticed: even when we’re talking about innovation, people like to be told what to do. Doesn’t this strike you as odd? The people that are the most interested in doing something new seem to like being told what to do, just like everyone else.

I just revisited a great post by David Chouinard about the importance of reading, which reminded me of this contradiction. Here is a key quote from the post:

What if your doctor told you she hasn’t read a scholarly article since med school? Or your lawyer told you he doesn’t bother reading new case studies?
Then why is it acceptable not to read in your field?
Turns out books are by far your #1 entertainment and learning value. Before even trying to be the best (plumber, businessperson, marketer, therapist) in the world, you need to read an awful lot.
But don’t read anything. Most books/blogs are about the top ten tips on X, about following the checklist and learning the manual. Except for a few that get you to write your own map.

The last quote is the kicker. To innovate, we need to write our own map. Which is why it seems weird to me that so many of the popular posts on Blogging Innovation, one of the most popular innovation blogs around, are list posts. I’m not criticising either the site, which is a great resource, nor the posts on the list – which are generally useful. The thing I don’t like is our tendency to be drawn to lists.

On one level, I understand why list posts are popular. I’ve even written a few myself. But overall, I’m with Chouinard – we need to be writing our own maps.

Which is one of the reasons that I really like Different by Youngme Moon. One of the basic premises in this book is that organisations get caught up in feature wars – which they can’t win, when they should be trying to do something genuinely different.

The thing that I love about Different is that it is not a recipe book. There are no easy steps to follow to make your offerings different. You have to write your own map.

One of the ways to do this is to read, and to read widely. Read across disciplines. Find the novel ideas by connecting things at the intersection of disciplines (an idea also discussed in The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson).

There’s no map to follow to become innovative. You have to make your own map.

Here’s 10 easy steps you can follow to do that…..

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

11 thoughts on “Write Your Own Map

  1. I’m not sure I agree with the no map required but I do agree you need to make your own mental map, You need to see this unpaved road as the book suggests, have at least a compass to keep you on a certain direction, the necessary equipment to survive (read widely included) and a appetite to travel, to explore, to experiment. As for being told, no you follow your heart that rules your head and this is the difficult part.

  2. Tim,
    Good post.

    I agree with creating one’s own map but I am also a big advocate of reading everything (of course, within their time/resource constraints) & gathering as much information from other sources (like conferences, tweetups, conversations etc.).

    The “travel” analogy works well here in my opinion. Based on my readings, conversations, news etc. I might decide to go visit a certain place X. Once I have decided on X, I then go further into reading the guides, researching local attractions, looking at the route, looking at any other ‘attractions’ between my start point and X etc. And finally, I sit down and conceptualize my own map on how “I” am going to make the trip to X.

    Enjoyed the read.


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