Innovation is Not Found in Ruts

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How much exploring do you do? As in, really do? On the way to or from your usual destinations, do you ever vary the route? Or, is the route a rut with high sides that you do not look beyond?

A few years ago, Seth Godin discussed, The problem with doing it by heart. As you might expect, doing something ‘by heart’ is not much different than being in a rut. There’s a lack of active thought involved.

How many of us carry around little factoids, the pieces of institutional knowledge we learn early in a new job…that end up becoming foundational facts never to be questioned?  Problem is, adoption institutional knowledge, ‘the way we do things here,’ is yet another form of rut we create for ourselves.

As I wrote about a couple years ago in, Challenge Institutional Knowledge, these ruts can have detrimental impacts. For instance, I have see pricing models developed based solely upon ‘common knowledge’. In the case I cited, it was common knowledge that a ‘large’ customer was one doing 2,000,000 units/monthly with us. In reality, a big customer was one tenth that size.

How many opportunities to –measurably- improve do you miss, because you never even look for them?

As leaders, ruts have an entirely different hazard.  It is incredibly easy to get sucked into the minutiae of daily affairs, tackling the major problems of the day (at whatever your level may be). Without external stimulus, the world around you largely stays the same day-to-day.  The real question then becomes, how do you lead to where you have never been? Perhaps the one step I’ll suggest here is simply this: Beware of your ruts, seek them out consciously, and work to tear them down.

Sunrise

Our ruts are found everywhere, even in how we look at our backyards. As I wrote, for another site, in Exploring Your Own Backyard, I too fall prey to getting stuck in ruts at times. Perhaps less so now than at other points in my life, but it happens.  Even when I vary my paths, I have my own favorite little ‘excursions’ that, themselves, are often simply more ruts. Just not as deep.

It is important that we do not let our ruts define us. Be creative, look beyond your daily routine…put some conscious effort into it!

Image credit(s): Torben Photography