The paths to innovation

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Jonar Nader on stage

Jonar Nader encourages us to ask unreasonable questions when innovating. He shows some of the paths that can lead to innovation, and then he explains why bright ideas suffocate within established organisations. He says that great ideas are often dismissed for very good reasons. Further below is a transcript of the video.

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Here is the transcript:

Jonar Nader: Let’s just have a little bit of a history lesson here to remind you of these things you probably know. There are many ways to arrive at these great punctuated points. You know, necessity is one of the fantastic ones. There was a time when this chap was selling ice cream in a cup, and the expo was so successful that he ran out of cups. And he knew that was the end of it. But he saw the chap across the hall from him making waffles, and he thought, “Well, maybe I can do this and sell the ice cream in a waffle,” which now is the invention called the cone. Frustration is a fantastic one that can breakdown the walls.

Jonar Nader: There was an undertaker who buried people for a living. And he lived in Kansas City, and anytime somebody died, they would in those days have to ring for the operator and say, “Please, operator, put me through to the baker, put me through to the butcher, put through to the undertaker.” But it so happened that the operators own husband was also an undertaker. So anytime business came this way, she never gave it to poor Alan, she always gave it to her husband. This guy is so frustrated at the lack of business that he invented the self-dial telephone you and I pick up the phone and we dial ourselves. He invented that. Who would have thought that come from that side of the business. Irritation.

Jonar Nader: Do you remember the story of the chap who sent some potatoes back to the kitchen saying, “These are too thick,” and he only meant them to be just that. And the chef was so irritated by this rudeness that he said, “You want them thin, mate? I’ll give you thin.” And he gave him thin, and they – everybody in the restaurant thought, “This is fantastic. I want some, too.” It was actually a joke that became potato chips and thin crisps. A combination where we see here a wastage of water on football fields and ovals and all sorts of places, here, we can put a mark or a chip or a jelly bean at every foot or meter and only feed it with water when it tells the jet to spray here not here, rather than this blanket approach. So we combine technologies, which is another way that we break new ground.

Jonar Nader: A dream, you’ve all heard of Goodyear, Charles Goodyear, who died penniless, been in jail three times. Over 14 years, he was trying to invent this thing that he knew in his mind would one day be rubber and then, by accident, one day, he – you know, he pursued his dream to such a degree that he had I think 12 kids and half of them died from asphyxiation, lack of food, all sorts of diseases. But he never gave up. He died absolutely penniless. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company has absolutely nothing to do with him. It was named in his honor. He followed his dream for 14 years.

Jonar Nader: An accident during the world war, the radar people were having this electron magnetron so they could detect aircraft. And so the radar team just kept noticing that their lollies, their chocolate in their pockets was melting every time they were working on this and realized what an electron magnetron does to agitate, cause friction and cause heat, and we have microwave ovens. Accidents are wonderful. This is a very dark shot. You can’t see it. And what it says is, well, this is a pack at night. And another way to arrive at innovation is to be crazy, and ask the crazy question, “Gee, wouldn’t it be good if we could light this up but not with electricity? Wouldn’t it be good if would could use nanotech, biotech, chemical tech, so that the leaves themselves can illuminate?” Could we do that? And I think it is important to always ask crazy questions and then see if we can work back from there.

Jonar Nader: The environment is forcing us to study how we use lawn mowers and meeting all sorts of problems with noise, pollution, CO2 and all sorts of problems. And so can we use biotech, nanotech or chemical tech to ask the crazy question? Why does grass keep growing? Can we engineer a type of grass where, you know, like the hair on your head, if you cut it, it grows and grows and grows? The hair here on my arm, if I shaved this off, it will grow and grow and stop. Can we apply that kind of logic to lawn so that it’d be real lawn, but grows and stops – and same with trees and overhanging wires and all sorts of problems?

Jonar Nader: Urgency, brings the best of minds together and brings the best out in people. Hut here is now point. All of these things that I mentioned to you are unstable. We cannot sit back in business and wait for somebody to do something like this because even if they would come up to you in your organization with anyone of these crazy ideas, first of all, the idea is going to be first a seedling, and the one thing you’re going to do is to immediately say, “All the blood – white blood cells are going to kill it.” Any great gem of an idea that comes to your business sounds unstable, don’t have the time for it, don’t have the tolerance, don’t have the patience, the white blood cells in your organization flowing at such a speed will kill it. Therefore, there has to be another way.

Jonar Nader: We cannot have innovation in the way I’ve described it to you just by sitting and waiting for these wonderful emergencies and innovations and frustrations to take place. Our organizations don’t allow it. So what do we need to do? There is a solution and the answer is right up here for you. We need to understand how to have an organization that can evolve ideas and concepts bit by bit so the white blood cells do not kill it. And if we can apply this 1% excellence on a daily basis, let’s now look and see how evolution happens but why does it fail so many times. In the same way, we see customer service, a spouse, left, right, and center, and you have search hard to find it.

Jonar Nader: Let’s look at the hard way. So at first, I normally would like to engage a room completely. But because of the size of this room, you’ll forgive me I ask for volunteers to join me on stage…

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