As we start a new year (and, some would say, a new decade) as an already reeling country now reeling even more from the shooting of a Congresswoman, I’m grappling with the state of the United States. There is no question that we are poorer than we were when I grew up, and there is much evidence that we are more divided and pessimistic than we’ve ever been. We need something (as opposed to “someone,” which hasn’t seemed to work) to rally behind. And I’m going to vote, once again, for “Innovation.” Hear me out.
If there is anything that we’ve learned as Americans in this past decade it’s that there are many versions of “America,” and plenty of other Americans who don’t see it the way you do. Red state-Blue state-Tea Party-Who’s-the-smarty?-Obama-Drama, Hey! Our politics and media — which feed our sense of country and confidence — are so far out of wack that we don’t know what is true or what to believe. We do know that from healthcare to housing, we’ve lost a lot of our wealth lately, and that as a culture and as individuals, we have more challenges than ever before. Some say that we are seeing the irrevocable fall of the American empire. Some say technology can save us, empowering us to write blogs like this that lead to less alienation than in previous years. Not all of us believe that though. What can really unite us?
It’s “Innovation.” I put it in quotes because we still need to collectively define what that means and to better understand creativity, the engine of innovation. But right now the political left and right, the CEOs and the artists, miraculously agree that innovation is needed, and that our future is dependent on leveraging our innovation capacity. I’ve called this the Innovation Imperative — that we need creativity and innovation more than ever, for economic, cultural and personal reasons.
Economic: America, with its diversity of ideas, free enterprise, university research and available capital, still has the raw materials for economic innovation. The Obama administration had been more quiet about “innovation” in 2010 than it had been the year before and, as I’ve discussed before, certain measures of innovation seem to be on the decline. But both political sides, as well as leaders everywhere, know that “innovation” is the key to us getting out of our economic hole. The “United States of Innovation” is the best rallying cry for getting us aligned and talking (!) under one unified banner.
Cultural: For economic success, we need an innovative culture in our cities, communities, schools and organizations. We have really difficult challenges now — from our healthcare to the environment to under-educated kids, that require a new mindset of innovation that can lead to real breakthroughs and better solutions. This blog has been dedicated to offering tools for an innovative mindset and culture, which include openness to new ideas, diverse perspectives coming together in new combinations, and the fostering of the “4Cs” of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.
Personal: We live in a world without long-term job security, and that means we have to be more creative individually, able to learn constantly as adults and re-invent ourselves as needed. The world is asking us to truly leverage our unique talents in ways that provide value to others, and to do that we have to be aware of and build our competencies of creativity, which I’ve described throughout this blog. Perhaps the most important is flexibility — which is our ability to see things differently, seek out new perspectives, challenge our assumptions and embrace change.
Despite our current malaise, the United States is still a young country and a small shift of mindset, perhaps an inner rather than outer revolution, could lead to needed change much quicker than we think. What do you think? Can we get people to rally behind innovation? What else can unify us? Here’s to a 2011 where more Americans embrace their own creativity and where we’re more of a united state of innovation and collaboration.
Want more from Adam? Check out his Innovation on my Mind blog.