Offensive Innovation

“Offensive Innovation.” comes from the following sources:

Gerry Spence. I saw a five minute video of Gerry Spence speaking to the 2010 Trial Lawyers College class where he tells experienced trial lawyers they are getting ready to try their “first case.” Mr. Spence explains to the lawyers they have yet to try their first case because they have been practicing law in a way “that is expected of them.” This includes their trials. At the college they will discover their true self and proceed to do what they intuitively know what is right.

Stephen King. In reading Stephen King’s book 11/22/63 I came across a passage where the hero Jake Epping a high school English teacher tells us about ¬†Harry Dunning, an unsophisticated janitor who returns to finish high school:

“My honors kids were juniors…but they were like little old men and little old ladies, all pursey-mouthed and ooo, don’t slip on that icy patch, Mildred. In spite of his grammatical lapses and painstaking cursive, Harry Dunning had written like a hero. … As I was musing on the difference between offensive and defensive writing… .”

This simple reflection passage caused me to think about offensive and defensive writing. Meaning defensive as in a way meant by Gerry Spence-a way we think others (like King’s hero Epping) want us to write.

NPR. Thirdly, I heard the end of an NPR interview with Roberto Verganti who wrote Design Driven Innovation. This is a book that reasons success in business is about having a vision, and taking that vision to your market. Game-changers like Nintendo’s Wii or Apple’s iPod overturned our understanding of what a video game means and how we listen to music. The market place did not show a need for these new meanings, but once it¬†experienced them, it was love at first sight.

Offensive Innovation. I think what Gerry Spence, Stephen King and Roberto Verganti are talking about is “offensive innovation.” “Offensive innovation” means knowing yourself and trusting your ability to know what is right. Then act on it. Take action in an offensive way meaning go with what you think without defensive thinking/worrying about how you will be accepted. As the Nike slogan says “just do it.”

Several years ago I was at a lecture by the great painter, William Cumming. During the question and answer session a young man asked Mr. Cumming if an artist can learn by studying painting at an art school. William Cumming answered “the ability to create art is not taught. It comes from inside the artist.” In essence the artist knows inside what he wants to paint and he paints it without regard for how it will be received. The artist is painting with “offensive innovation.”

I will do my best to try my next case with “offensive innovation.”

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