We held our first Indiana Innovation Awards ceremony the other night, where we recognized ten different winners from around the state. The diversity of the winners was impressive. We recognized big companies such as Whirlpool Corporation and Delta Faucet, family companies like Jackson Systems, start up companies like Courseload and My Farms and even an Indianapolis based non-profit; People for Urban Progress. These organizations all serve different customers across diverse markets. Their budgets and organizations vary dramatically. Yet each winning team seemed to have one key element in common. They’re all rebels.
If you stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense. A person that is wired to be content with the status quo will probably never be an innovator. It takes a person willing to swim upstream, to take some political risks, to venture into unexplored territory. As each team’s story was unveiled it became clear that they were led by rebels. Many of the teams told us that their project was nearly killed at some point, due to management pressure, lack of funding, or seemingly unsurpassable roadblocks. Yet their perseverance saw them through to eventual success.
Isn’t it odd that in our culture we try to “correct” this trait out of people? Starting in elementary school the child that views life differently is “encouraged” to conform. I will never forget my early days of my corporate career. I hired in out of college ready to set the world on fire. For the first six months, I was basically told to sit down and shut up and learn to do my job the way my predecessor (and his before him) had always done it. One of my earliest reviews actually stated that I did not work well with others and that I struggled to comply with established company procedures. In my conversations with others, it seems this is not an unusual orientation to a new organization. Sometimes I’m amazed that enough people stick it out to provide us with any innovation at all.
So with this blog, I give a virtual toast. ”Here’s to the oddballs, the mis-fits, and the rebels that can’t be satisfied with the way things are. May you always see life as an opportunity and your job responsibility as that of a change-agent. It is people like you that make this country great and that ultimately drive our economy. Cheers!”