There are changes going on in the world, but they’re more subtle and pervasive than they may at first appear. Talk about the Internet, gadgets, connectivity, convergence. These may be just buzzwords, but the real transformation is not happening only in that arena. The buzzwords are like symptoms of an underlying condition. They are the secondary waves that spread through the media from the many epicenters of research and innovation.
A critical point to understand is that the buzzwords indicate a tendency, or a vector of innovation.
Say, for example, the vector hinted at by the gadget buzzword: the gadget-vector. The gadget-vector became a buzzword when big money started flowing, but the flow of money is nothing but a mere indicative that change is possible. The absence of that flow, however, doesn’t determine the lack of the vector, neither does the absence of the buzzword. The tablet PC market was already possible a couple of decades ago, both in terms of technology, market interest and excess income. There was already a tablet PC-vector that required a big player – with a big tribe – to make the move and create the iPad. The iPad marked the tipping point that separated the pre- and post-tablet PC eras.
Now, the idea of a vector is that it also indicates direction. This decision isn’t an arbitrary heading decided on a whim, but rather it is determined by a confluence of factors. What is interesting about vectors is that they don’t have to make sense, they need not be readily visible, and they are swirling vortices of opportunity. Evidence to support this concept of a vector is easily found in the analysis of any real-life vector example.
Once again, let’s stick to the tablet PC-vector. The wave had already started in the 90s with PalmPilots. These contraptions unknowingly were already prototypes for the iPads of today, because they already pointed toward computers you can carry with you. There was also a lot of development around mobile phones, although the technology wasn’t mature at that point. Big brands like Microsoft tried their hand at it unsuccessfully. A big tipping point happened when Apple released the first iPad.
Admittedly, the first iPad was kind of bad. It didn’t have cameras, it was expensive, it had no USB ports, it had no physical keyboard. If an executive in any hardware company suggested such a device, he’d be condescended, if not fired on the spot. Why put all these unnatural restraints, instead of complying to the established norms? Why make a device that is clearly designed to polarize your customer base, and thus alienate valuable paying customers? Why make it so expensive, unless you absolutely have to?
All these questions have the same answer: yes, it is a big rupture with the status quo of herd thinking, and it wouldn’t have worked if it wasn’t. So this is how Steve Jobs infused his art and craft in his work. He took a vector and worked around its edges – and through them – so that something would connect. The whole point is to get to the point where the vector takes over, to get to that tipping point, and then relax.
The hardship of this particular path is that the consensual people in the consensual world can’t see it. Whereas millennials can pick up on the ebb and flow of vectors, the previous generations are utterly blind to them, especially to the newest ones. The initial hurdle is to get over yourself, and then to give up on counting on other people to save you or understand you.
Deal with the drama
Some accomplish this by holding on to their day job, and then ignoring everybody. Although not recommended for the faint of heart, this approach is unbeatable in terms of resources, because you don’t really depend on external factors. Another alternative solution would be to carefully talk to the people around you, like family and friends, and explain to them what is going on in your world. Tough one too.
Looking through examples of innovative thinking, there is no shortage of bad examples. Unfortunately, many of these examples tell stories of men who’ve prioritized their work over all personal affairs. As a result of this, they tend to be tragic heroes. Hated by many and feverishly loved by a few. As far as Steve Jobs goes, we have plenty of ‘path tragedy’. A few highlights would include: getting fired from the company he created himself, a succession of failed software enterprises that then became iOS, being openly called a tyrant in a post-mortem biography.
This is what you might be exposing yourself to here. We’re not talking about easy business and silly ways to better decorate your business. It’s fine to do that, except if you don’t stray from it. The point is that your business exists as it is, and changing things around can cause a ruckus, or maybe even more than a ruckus. It might rip things apart, you might go bankrupt, your friends might get bigger cars than you.
The way I see this is like the decisive battle in a long, bloody war. On the one hand, you can keep doing what you’re doing, and hope for the best. On the other hand, you might step up and take your heart’s desire to a new level. The former involves living with the pain of feeling yourself grow progressive numb, older and less sharp. The pain of postponing engagement. The latter involves huge risk, and many promises of pain still. Of course, the latter is where small business become huge transnational companies.
What is your art and craft?
This is one difficult subject to address, mostly because your art and craft will never be put into words. Words are chosen depending on one’s emotions and state of mind, but both emotions and minds waver ceaselessly. And because of that, knowing what you want to do will never happen at the level of thoughts and feelings. Some people call it intuition, but I would steer clear of even the most innocent classifications, such as this.
Steve Jobs definitely had a calling, but who would dare to crank it into one simple sentence? The term ‘Computer Scientist’ doesn’t account for the monikers of the designer, the manager, the businessman, the man with a vision.
So, instead of focusing on finding an adequate description in words, gracefully bring your attention back to what you want to do. Make it into something magical and beautiful, only to be compared to unicorns, Christmas mornings and the feeling of traveling to the beach with lots of money and perfect weather!
The main point is that people won’t necessarily like you for who you are, and the same goes for your art. If they’re not buying the product of your craft, you might not be that good enough just yet.
Why is this relevant to someone’s art and craft?
Because I’m assuming a person expects to get paid for his or her work. That’s how the deal with society works. You do what they want, and you get what you want. Just doing art isn’t going to cut it. You might be as good as any and better than most, but no pile of money will come until they start paying. It’s a simple causal relation.
These causal relations are very trustable, and that’s why we look for them when running from risk. In fact, there seems to be the implication of a direct cause-and-effect relation between wage and work. Work a number of hours, get paid for the number of hours worked. It does seem to me that this model is terrible, but the artist and craftsman can greatly benefit from it.
For the time being, let’s focus on the time-for-money model. It is a ghastly model. What I dislike about it the most is the fact that I got addicted from an early age to this situation. I can’t feel good if I’m not doing something, if I’m not going somewhere, if I’m not chasing wild geese. Funnily enough, if I didn’t have to worry about money, I would probably be chasing wild geese anyway. Also, maybe this goose chase is closely related to your art, and that’s why striving for money may sometimes become no more than busywork and procrastination.
Art and craft, conversely, are everything you do when you don’t feel like you’re procrastinating. When the uncomfortable feeling is not there, even for a little while.
How can your business benefit from all this?
In many ways, startups are where innovation happens. This is so because of a number of factors. One such factor is that big companies don’t have to innovate. They can sit on their laurels and watch as the world goes around. Some corporate giants are very good at doing this, and it still works like a charm, especially if technology doesn’t directly influence the relevant markets.
The small guys, however, only grow to such sizable enterprises by riding waves of innovation. We are already at a point in History where most of our giant transnationals are companies that have innovated heavily in the last 3 decades.