Ways We Innovate: The Upside Of Upset

If Something Upsets You, Does That Make It More Innovative?

Let’s face it – most people don’t like change. We like things being the way they are – even the word “upset” has a negative connection – to turn over the “set” to break with the established order. The only problem is that there are so many things we can have the ability to SOLVE if only we would be willing to “upset” things.

As I write this, I can hear raindrops on my roof – California is finally getting some much-needed rain. We’ve been in drought for over 4 years now; no doubt you have seen those pretty scary photos of lakes simply disappearing – boats in the middle of the lake beached. Our water is disappearing – it’s barely rained here, and we are feeling the pain. Until the last few days, we’ve had almost never-ending sunny days for the last four years. No one knows if we will see enough rain this year to take us out of the drought.

I thought about that when I read about the scientist who hadn’t showered in 12 years. He didn’t need much water, only washing his hands just before performing experiments. Apparently, he had devised a way to stay clean by spraying himself with a mist that combined beneficial bacteria, which destroyed the bacteria which made him smell. At the same time, he supplemented his skin with other bacteria (from dirt, apparently), which nourished his skin. He is now selling the stuff, of course. The story was played for disgust – they even had 3 willing people from their staff try the stuff out and not shower for a week; all but one thought it was not very good. The article was interesting – it mentioned that our penchant for bathing was apparently extreme before Christianity’s rise, which linked cleanliness with promiscuity.

Wonder when “cleanliness is next to Godliness” became the norm.

After I read this, I thought to myself: this is perfect. We don’t really need to be using all of their water: why doesn’t some enterprising entrepreneur develop a shower based on this scientist’s formula? Instead of a shower every morning, we’d step into a fine mist of this stuff, dousing ourselves and killing all the bad bacteria without using up our precious water.

When I suggested, this people thought I was crazy. What? We are not to bathe now? It may be “upsetting,” but if you think about it – it’s the future. No matter what you think of climate change, reducing our water use can only be good. Why not come up with a waterless shower that cleans you with science. Yuk, right? No, it’s the future. It’s INNOVATION.

The other day I heard that my friends at IFTF had wandered over to the local pub with their Beam Pro telepresence robot and were screamed at and practically thrown out. Can’t imagine what is so scary about a woman and her telepresence robot? The clientele was apparently highly agitated, and they asked her and her remote companion to leave. And this is in the heart of Silicon Valley, where we literally have a shop staffed only by Beam robots. When I thought about this, I realized that the future is very upsetting to some.

However, that only makes me think that we are on the mark. If the futures we are weaving, the innovations we are creating aren’t upsetting someone, then are we really doing our jobs? Are we really pushing the envelope? Are we staying in that safe little box when we innovate, or are we making people uncomfortable? Are we upsetting them?

Part of our mandate should be to push the envelope, make people feel a little upset about where things are going. Get them to think about those futures, trigger thinking, trigger innovation, push them to think thoughts a bit out of the mainstream.

There’s so much we could do if we are just willing to be a bit more upset.