Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inspiration beats "design by committee"

In every area of human activity, the best new things are created by individuals and small groups of people guided by inspiration. And most of the other less-exciting new things are created by larger groups of people through a systematic design process, driven by perfectly reasonable values and methods, such as logic, analysis, market research, and consensus.

Its intentions are good. Its processes are perfectly reasonable. Requirements are gathered, standards are defined, plans are put in place, and quality is checked and controlled.

There's no rational explanation for why systematic design performs so poorly by comparison to inspiration. You might even say it's an indictment of rationality itself. With such a thoroughly systematic process, it's hard to imagine how failure is even a possibility.

For whatever reason, systematic design, even when bolstered by enormous budgets and other structural advantages, struggles to create anything new of real value. It continues to be embarrassed by the better results of inspired newcomers, outsiders who often don't even seem to know what they are doing, but who come up with something better nonetheless.

Maybe inspiration itself is biased against Goliath and loves a spunky underdog. Maybe the irrational, unpredictable nature of inspiration leaves no place for it in an established, successful, mainstream enterprise.

Whatever the explanation, you should know this: If you're in touch with inspiration, you have a strategic competitive advantage. The most powerful people in the world are afraid of you. Even if you seem to face long odds, don't sell yourself short. Real inspiration is rarer than you think. Make the most of it.

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