Thursday, February 08, 2018

Yesterday or Thinking about Tomorrow?

The Beatles (they were a pop group for those of you who cut your teeth on Eminem) wrote jangly songs about yellow submarines and walruses.  It was the 60s, so I guess you had to be there to understand.  They were all about sunny days, happy feelings, a kind of Beach Boys from England with mod outfits and mop top haircuts.  They also had that outrageous Sergeant Pepper phase, but I digress.

The Beatles also had a few melancholy songs, perhaps none more famous than "Yesterday".  Yesterday is a song about looking back with some regret, after realizing that the recent past wasn't so bad, that some opportunities may have been missed.

The Beatles were innovators in rock and roll, introducing a new perspectives, a really interesting competing view of the world between Paul McCartney and John Lennon, introducing eastern musical themes and instruments into rock and roll, and many other innovations.  But for innovators I think the most relevant song they sang was Yesterday.  It's also one of the most covered songs in history.

Why Yesterday?

Missed Opportunities
Yesterday is about missed opportunities, and if anything about innovation is true, all innovators will acknowledge that far too many innovation opportunities are ignored, missed, skipped past.  Too often we don't even become aware of innovation opportunities until someone else has capitalized on the opportunity.  In hindsight all innovation seems evident, but it rarely seemed that way at the time.

Also, there's a realization in yesterday.  The old joke goes that the best day to start a diet if you want results was yesterday, but the best day to start if you don't want the pain is tomorrow.  If you replace the word "diet" with "innovation" the saying holds.  The best time to have started an innovation activity is almost always "earlier than this" because it takes longer to do good innovation than most people realize, and the opportunities open and close more quickly than most people expect.  However, like dieting, most teams put off innovation until it is an absolute necessity, and then cheat their way through the diet.  The best time to get started with innovation was yesterday, but that doesn't mean we can't start today.

The final idea that relates Yesterday to innovation is nostalgia.  The singer looks back on missed opportunities and how wonderful the past was.  Likewise, many people and companies tend to look back at the past through rose colored glasses and see only difficulty and challenge in the future.  Innovators know that the best opportunities like in front of us.  Let go of the past, look toward the future with optimism and expectation.

Thinking about tomorrow

In fact, if we are going to stick with a musical theme, the innovator's mantra is Fleetwood Mac's  "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow", always looking forward, always thinking about possibilities.

So, which perspective do you and your team favor? A nostalgic look back, full of regret about the past, clinging to what you have, or a more optimistic view toward the future?  Are you caught up in Yesterday, or thinking about tomorrow?  Innovators will always be thinking about tomorrow.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 5:47 AM


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