The development of focused relationships with partners, allies and networks is a greater driver of innovation than countless rounds of internal brainstorming and intranet posts asking for everyone to be a bit more creative. Yet often individuals and companies cannot get over that first collaborative relationship step and move towards acting, testing and building something new that could be greater than the sum of their two parts. It often requires us to be outward facing, to be flexible, to try new things and open to doing more with other people.
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done. Make at least one definite move daily toward your goal.” – Bruce Lee.
Bruce Lee, knew a thing or two about the need to act and not just think. Whilst Bruce Lee was not averse to giving Chuck Norris a good beating in this beautifully choreographed kung-fu masterpiece – he showed a massive drive to getting things done in all areas of his work and life. From writing, directing and setting up a whole school of martial arts – as well as of course being a major movie star in his own right too. He was a true innovator, a challenger to the norm and he believed in a constant process of action, not just thinking. Clearly, good thinking, wishing and wanting is a good place to begin. And objectives, vision and aims are all good.
But things only really happen when we focus on the tactical and make things happen, especially when it comes to working with partners, customers, suppliers or colleagues. Flexibility in our approach is important as we cannot expect for the world to always be shaped as we want it to be.
Bruce Lee famously described his approach as ‘being like water’ – to be more flexible and open rather than rigid, both in mind and in action. The entire Lean Start-Up premise, championed by the author Eric Ries also reflect this. The focus is that business innovations and entrepreneurship is about testing your hunch and to pivot and change your strategy as early tests and experiments can be measured. The future is not however guaranteed. As Ries famously puts it ‘a Start-Up is a human institution operating in conditions of extreme uncertainty’. We cannot know for sure that everything will work but unless we start to try to do things, especially with others, we can remain stuck in a debilitating sludge of non-activity and status quo that dangerously, often feels comforting. Rather than a virtuous circle of creating, testing, learning we remain in one of repetition, stability and fear of change. Of course, sometimes, we need to stick to the road and dig deep to meet our individual objectives. But to build progress we often need to pivot, be open and to be flexible, to seek out news way of doing and not remain a prisoner to our strategies.