Sunday Sparks Issue 3: Innovation
Gooooood evening and Happy Sunday!
We are at a monumental time in history— with a president who got impeached twice (because the first time wasn't enough), historic levels of deplatforming, and a pandemic that does not seem to be cooling down.
With social media usage at an all time high and simultaneously, deplatforming happening like crazy, there's a huge potential for groupthink in today's society.
We often find ourselves playing games of perfect competition—similar players fiercely competing to capture demand, and ultimately driving down profit for everyone. While this phenomenon is mostly referenced in business, we see this everywhere—school, fashion, Instagram.
The alternative is building a monopoly—a good, service, or personality that is so superior and distinguished from the others that it rises above the others. While being in perfect competition forces us to keep an eye on our competitors and copy them feature to feature, the pursuit to build a monopoly helps us always stay ahead. This issue is about is about innovation in a world that is rapidly changing.
The first step to distinguishing yourself from the crowd is to be yourself. While this is the most cliché advice you've heard, a lot of people listen to it, nod, and go about their days. It takes a lot of practice and years of unlearning things we've been taught since childhood to actually "be yourself".
To actually do it,
All you should do is what you want to do. If you stop trying to figure out how to do things the way other people want you to do them, you get to listen to the little voice inside your head that wants to do things a certain way. Then, you get to be you.
This is all great. However, you can't sustain innovation that happens once or twice. Innovation is a continuous process that evolves with you.
Grant Achatz, besides being one of the most creative chefs in the world, has one of the most effective processes for maintaining his culinary monopoly. He constantly asks "Why?"—"Why not a tablecloth that we can eat off of? Why do you have to eat with a fork or a spoon? And why does it have to be served on a plate or in a bowl?". He deconstructs food to it's most basic form and reconstructs it back to make spectacular dishes— for eg, his strawberry-shaped tomato.
He also understands that this approach isn't a one-off event. Over the years Achatz and his team have scrapped the menu and reinvented the restaurant over and over again despite enjoying success with the old dishes. He understands that innovation is a system—not a goal. The only way to be unique is to ask yourself "Can we eliminate what we've been working for the last 10 years and start over? And the answer is yes"
We often think of reinventing ourselves in terms of learning a new language, picking up an instrument, or getting started with programming. However, a lot of the changes in how we think occur at a more fundamental level.
In this podcast episode, Peter Diamandis compares human personality and development to a computer system. Our brains are the computer structures and are pretty much fixed by biology. Our operating system—the next layer—is developed generally between ages 0 to 5 or 7. This layer is what helps us make sense of things. On top of that, we have apps, which are skills like Algebra, Spanish, or computer programming. We often look to our apps—"Oh I've gotta learn to code", "I've gotta learn this skill or that skill". But we rarely look at our operating system. We rarely think about why we react to situations a certain way. Why do we have a pessimistic or self-defeatist mindset? The answers to these questions are in how your operating system is programmed.
As Diamandis explains, "Unless you change it, you're gonna be constantly falling into those same patterns over and over and over again. I've got them, we've all got them, but if you can become aware of it, you can at least take control of it." Reinventing yourself often requires drastic changes—new friends, new environments, and most importantly, moving past what you've done for the past X years of your life.
The core of innovation beyond personal reinvention is problem-solving. The core of problem-solving is the problem itself. When learning new things and thinking about how to solve problems, we often go by analogy—for eg. that person built a successful YouTube channel, so I could too if I followed what he did. While this a convenient way to make sense of the world, truly innovative things have no analogy. These kinds on problems require deconstructing them into their fundamentals and reconstructing them from there. As mentioned in this article, the greatest thinkers and innovators followed this approach.
This article is a great guide on incorporating a first principles approach to your life. The most consistently successful people got there by constantly re-examining their thoughts and putting themselves in new, uncomfortable situations.
If you liked this issue of Sunday Sparks, I would really appreciate it if you shared it with a friend or two! You can send them here to sign up for the newsletter.
If you have any thoughts about this issue, I would love to hear them! Reply to this email or find me on Twitter!
Lastly, I want to leave with a question—How have you reinvented your life? What techniques do you use to re-examine your thoughts and get out of your comfort zone?
Until we meet again,