If you’re like most people in business, you probably keep a close eye on your return on investments. But have you ever thought about your return on learning?
In his keynote speech Wednesday evening, inventor and bestselling author Luke Williams urged attendees to re-examine the way they approach the ideas that drive their businesses. “We’ve got plenty of tools for generating new ideas,” Williams said. “Where are our tools for helping us escape from our old ideas? Where are our tools for helping us change our current ideas long before they actually need changing?”
In an energetic, playful presentation, Williams strode around the room and challenged the audience to think about ideas as “recipes that you use in your business to rearrange the resources you have to create new value and wealth.” In this metaphor, new technologies and business dynamics are new ingredients with which companies can cook.
“Who has the best recipe in what you’re doing?” Williams asked. “You may think you may have the best recipe, but if that recipe was created even three years ago, it is impossible that it’s the best recipe; it’s impossible that it’s extracting maximum value from the ingredients available today.”
Williams went on to identify impediments to disruptive thinking, such as complacency and arrogance, and “incremental ideas,” or ones that simply support current structures and are most likely to be put into action. “We know that if you’re only embracing incremental change to the way you’re thinking about your business and the industry, you’re getting yourselves in an incredibly dangerous position because you’re on a path that’s getting narrower and narrower,” he said.
So how can businesses change before it’s too late? “It’s your job as business owner or manager to introduce deliberate discontinuity into your system,” Williams said. “The discontinuity is what constantly restructures your existing ideas to make sure they’re extracting maximum value from later arriving ingredients.” To do this, businesses must incorporate a mechanism for challenging their fixed ideas—including introducing ideas that might even kill your existing business.
“When you, as a business, review these ideas, most of them are not going to get implemented,” he said. However, it’s these ideas that are most valuable, as they force companies to rethink who they are and what they do.
“Every time you review a discontinuous idea, it accelerates your learning,” he concluded. “And there’s never been a more exciting time for you to be thinking about all of this, and the potential around you.”
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