as far as possible, and then some

I’ve been mercilessly threatened by thugs at the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies. They’re the ones in the swank flowery shirts.

They insist that if I don’t consider the broadest possible multiplicity of potential outcomes, I may overlook the one I actually want to pursue. And while I couldn’t really hear over the howl of ukuleles, I think they said that if I don’t respect the almighty S in futures, they’ll rub a pineapple against my neck. Not lovingly, either, like Don Ho does to tourists in the front row.

Now, maybe I’ve got a bit of a Honolulu Syndrome thing going on, but I think all that talk of possibilities and pineapples has gone to my head. In a recent client-attended ideation session, all I could feel was the pull of the far-fetched and improbable.

Because we often work to nail down specific principles and specific opportunities for clients, we talk a lot about specific innovations. And though our recommendations are … well … ambitious, we keep them focused on singular goals. Slowly, patterns of creation have begun to emerge and, for my part, I’m now drawn to the composition of Innovation these specifics have revealed (even if, as I write it, it feels bunk). It seems that common threads bind together disparate ideas too tightly for their similarities to be disregarded.

Specifically, I’m compelled by the role of frontiers in an innovation ideation. That an innovation will house something new is a given. As far as invention is concerned, mankind has been at it for a while. New is the new old. It is when an idea passes bravely into a new frontiers that I feel the tingle of innovation. And that the futureboys reminded me that there isn’t just one frontier to breach makes matters much more tingly.

So, in the aforementioned client-attended ideation session, we naturally encouraged them the push their thinking outside normal boundaries. With due respect for Godin’s Edgecraft, we picked variables and turned their knobs both high and low, exploring conceptual extremes of maximum and minimum. And as has been the norm lately, the exploration of these isolated specifics unstitched a common thread: while every idea was new in some way — new to us, new to the client, new to their industry, etc. — those ideas that transcended new and actually threatened foray into a new frontier were the most likely to elicit laughter. In what first may have been misinterpreted as negative feedback, it became clear that this was an earnest laughter, too; one filled with uncertainty and interest as though you’d just been told an outrageous tall tale you secretly wanted to believe.

Jim Dator, another futurist badass who I am likely wholly misrepresenting, probably would have interjected thusly:
“Any useful statement about the futures should appear to be ridiculous.”