“The basic idea of the book is that there is always a dilemma every time you are about to take on something new. Are you gonna give up a huge chunk of your time trying to ‘innovate’ and come up with the next brilliant thing or are you going to continue to cultivate what you already have and progress on the path you are set on already..” he said making everybody agree condescendingly in the group.
“In the business sense, it’s always more optimal to take the shorter road and incrementally improve what you already know rather than throwing it all out and starting all over again with something new. To take the step and attempt innovation, you need to see the bigger picture and strive for the long term. Second thoughts are always gonna be there trying to stop you from taking such a big risk”.
And that was a very accurate synopsis of the book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” that made everybody feel as if they got a piece of great knowledge in the quickest and most efficient of ways. Most likely they wouldn’t even have to read the actual book and they would still be in a position to take the lesson out of it, like a limited time offer of a product discount during a sales period. I could imagine the billboard displaying the commercial with Neon letters:
“No need to spend days reading through the whole thing! Achieve the same result in a minute!” ..And a happy smiling face right next to it.
But how much of this synopsis covers the point of the entire book? Could we really assume that having the core insight at hand would be equivalent to not having to read the whole damn thing? And why don’t why just employ this tactic to all the books, instead of losing so many hours going through the stories of people and trying to grasp the underlying lessons? Wouldn’t it be much easier to get the already chewed up food from other’s people’s mouths instead?
Ofcourse, everything that shines is not gold and surely there is a trap to be found in the above thinking. A book is never about the end message that concludes it, but about the journey and the circumstances that led someone into a particular situation to have such a valuable insight for his case. There are a million cases of businesses that would be better of not to innovate and there could easily be a similar book about the wise choice they made to stay on their ongoing path and keep it together when everybody else was trying to find something new jumping from zero to one! And equally, there could be a number of books about delegating any high risk-high reward attempts to third-party startups that could allow you to minimize any failures and avoid big losses. And that could be the best choice for some other people to make. Who is right, and who is wrong here? All and nobody, of course…
You are not supposed to get the end lesson and apply it in your situation blatantly as is because that’s not what the book is meant to do. What it really is trying to show, is the journey someone else had to take, the problem he was facing, the opportunities he had to decline, and the particular thinking process that led him to particular decisions. And most of the time it doesn’t even have to be about stories of success, you can equally learn a lot of things from stories of failure as well.
But the end teachings can mean next to nothing on their own if you were to focus only on them. Out of context, everything sounds wise and valuable. “Make more money by betting on the big guns”, “Save more time by delegating task on others”. They all sound cool as they are fruitless and unapplicable. The point is not the advice but understanding the process someone had to master in order to be in a position to make the right choice when he was facing his very particular situation.
Why Stories Can Teach Us More Than Aphorisms
Am I the only one that is tired of people telling him how to live his life. “You should wake up at 4 o’clock every morning!”, “You should read 10 books per week!”, “You should be decisive and take action fast!”. Do these rules really mean anything? Maybe they are right on what they say and maybe they are not, but why do they feel so irrelevant to us.
Compare the above rules to the following. “I found myself stumbling on every day’s noise leaving me no time to concentrate on writing my book. The moment I would find a moment to focus, a new message would pop up and grab my attention away, like a programmable robotic response to a specific trigger. I decided to give a try in waking up earlier than usual and found that it gave me a sheer advantage. For one thing, I had a set amount of uninterrupted time to follow along as I pleased. And secondly, the emptiness of the very early hours would transmit a raw appetite on me, feeding my creativity in immense amounts.”
And this way of passing your message is a non-intruding and much more efficient manner of expressing your view. You not only convey the solution but also the situation that led you up to it and your pattern of thinking for which the recipient can take on and apply to his life as he judges appropriately. And who knows, maybe he will find that for him, waking up at 5 or 6 works better than waking up at 4 because his unique situation makes it a more suitable plan.
Also by story-telling, you don’t elicit all the questions and objections you would normally get out of the reader’s minds. Every time you try to guide someone directly, there is a natural response that is triggered, asking: “But why do I have to do that? What are you trying to get out of it?” etc.
Shaolin master Shi Heng Yi, shared a very intriguing story, on one of his self-discovery talks.
“A man wanted to climb a mountain. He gathered his stuff, went underneath it, and contemplated on what would be the best route for him to take, in actually achieving the task. Not knowing how to go about it, he asked an existing traveler on his opinion. The traveler shared his thoughts and experience on how he climbed the mountain but also shared with him the beauty of the view, the magnificent sense of being at the top, and the breathtaking feeling of seeing everything from above and realizing how small we all are. The man though got into thinking. The path was not as easy as he had hoped to be and so he set about to think about it a bit more. The next day he went under the mountain and asked another traveler for his point of view. And again he got his opinion about the route he should take and his descriptions of how it felt at the top. But still, the man could not set up his mind. And so he went on and on asking more and more travelers until he reached a point that he thought: ‘I actually don’t have to climb that mountain any more. I got the point of view of so many people that I can draw the image of being at the top as vividly as if I were already there.’”
And so it happened that the man actually never attempted to climb the mountain. Why getting through the hurdle when he had so many accounts to hold for himself about it, anyway? And that is a sound question when you regard everything on the end result it can bring you. But the important part of every journey is not the destination but the actual journey itself. It is finding those stumbling rocks blocking the road and finding a way around them. It’s getting at the top and feeling the beauty of it for yourself, not for the impact it will have on your friends or your status, but for your own account. Teaching your subconscious that your opinions and feelings matter as they are.
If you climb that mountain, you are in a much better position to climb other metaphorical mountains you will succumb to in your daily life. And as it is said before, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” You won’t be able to solve problems with the accounts of other people all the time.0