Innovation Is About Keeping Our Options Open

4 visions of innovation with Censhare’s Dieter Reichert

Innovation is on everyone’s lips except that what we see is hardly what we get. For innovation is, primarily, a matter of vision. Technology is nice and it travels fast, but what is it to us who can understand so little about it? It’s as if we, modern day Frankensteins, had invented new creatures and as they come to life, we barely understand what is going on. As the frightful Swiss in awe with his newborn wretch, we run around like headless chickens, trying to embrace these new technological objects of ours or merely trying to survive them. What if the answer were in the hands of the Indians of an obscure tribe in a Mexican desert? I tried to find out while interviewing Dieter Reichert, CEO and founder of Censhare, a worldwide software house set to redesign the way we handle information. And God knows there is a dire need for this.

Visions of Innovation can be found in the way native Americans perceive the world around them, Reichert says
Visions of Innovation can be found in the way native Americans perceive the world around them, Reichert says

Dieter came to visit me some time ago. We had decided I would interview him about software and we came to talk about his background and experience. Talking with entrepreneurs is always a fascinating experience. One gets to understand how they innovate, how they lead their business in their daily lives, how they overcome whatever obstacles they encounter. This is a very worthwhile experience, especially when you are are yourself an entrepreneur. Talking to Dieter for a few minutes, I realised that our interview would be on a totally different level. His was not the experience of an average businessman, but a real journey through life, deeply rooted in experiments. Well, all kinds of experiments, so to speak.

Vision of innovation 1: don’t do what’s expected of you

Dieter started in a way that wouldn’t appeal to most Parents, by flunking school at the age of 18. He wasn’t “cut out for that”, he admitted. By “that”, he meant reading books, and learning with a teacher locked up in a schoolroom. He was one for larger spaces, he fled to India. There he learned Yoga, then became a teacher and eventually, got bored, because “not much happens in India” he said. Not one for contemplation, Dieter, but much of a rolling stone.

He left India soon after that to live among Mexican tribespeople. Columbus had mistaken them for Indians and named them after others, Dieter went on to live with them. He liked it a lot. In actual fact, living with them shaped his vision of life and innovation. His vision of time and understanding the cosmos. He thinks he can understand innovation better than us because of this. This is a life-shaping experience, not just any kind of experience.

So here went Dieter, from adventure to venture, from the Mexican Indians to the creation of an events organisation setting up symposiums with the Dalai Lama and other celebs, then to the creation of a drugs rehab centre, all the time working with and for Apple. Meditation being the link between these things, most probably. “Think different” is certainly a motto that Dieter could live with. For he is a very different kind of person.

Vision of innovation 2: one day, computers will be less dumb

I liked his views on IT too. It’s true that computers aren’t that smart. This is an understatement. The more we are sold new versions of AI and self-driving cars, the more we have to reboot our machines, circumvent bugs and even live without the features one used to enjoy (where has the old Phatware ICR – intelligent character recognition – feature in our year 2000 PDAs gone?) They are just miniaturised versions of their bulky elders, even though we have gone quite a long way from the prehistory of IT, I readily admit.

Yet, exactly 26 years ago to the day, I was tip tapping away on a computer just like the one I have now in front of me. It’s true I was one of the happy few to be equipped with a laptop computer, its battery life was not going beyond 1 hour and a half and it was black and white (two years later I pawned it in exchange for a brand new colour Zenith PC). Having said that, it was a PC nonetheless, with an older but reasonably functional version of Office by Microsoft. Not much less powerful than the ones we have now and certainly less bug-ridden.

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Sinek and the Golden Circle of innovation

Sinek and the golden circle of innovation

Sinek's golden circleToday’s selection is this motivational video by Simon Sinek, a master in the Art of captivating the audience while only teaching a single thing and demonstrating it several times in the course of the same recording session. I find the video as impressive in terms of presentation skills as of the contents. Sinek is the inventor of the Golden Circle of innovationconcept:

The Golden Circle of innovation is something very simple, and very often, simple things are the most effective. Yet, simplicity in this particular example boils down very much to the presentation skills of a top-class orator. What Sinek shows here is an explanation of how leadership, and innovation work, and the reason why true leaders manage to innovate and cross Geoffrey Moore’s chasm (see figure per below), in order to convince the early and late majorities.This is applicable, not just for one form of innovation in particular, but whatever field of innovation is concerned. Sinek quotes three very different examples:

  1. Jobs at Apple (“because everybody can understand that particular example” he says, in essence),
  2. Martin Luther King (“who shared a dream with us and not a plan”),
  3. The Wright brothers (who managed to fly an aeroplane whereas they had no money and not even education and no other reasons to succeed).

What’s the trick? It’s very simple, at least on the surface of it: it suffices to focus on one single question “why?” and everything else will follow suite. Whereas we (marketeers) tend to focus on the “what?” and the “how?” of the things that we make and sell: we spend all our time on the features even though they are more or less uninteresting – most of the time not interesting at all – of our products, whereas we forget one essential thing: why we make them, with what philosophy, with what vision.

Like all simple things, it’s all very complicated to implement: on the one hand, having a vision doesn’t mean that your products must have no features (Jobs, and Ives, was obsessed with product features and quality but he was doing this with a vision); besides, this doesn’t mean that you will be able to have a vision (most of the time, most people are obsessed with details and have no capacity for abstraction); lastly, not all visions are good (there are tonnes of visionary men or women who aren’t leaders, and are considered lunatics and will keep on preaching in the desert; not all visions have the same value).

Forming a vision, the ability to inspire, innovate and lead cannot be taught, and it takes more than a recipe for innovation; it’s a state of mind, a way of life. Besides, being a true innovator means that you should not be afraid to be despised.