How to Innovate Like a Shark

In 1975 a young director with no big films credits under his belt, set out to make a horror film. Steven Spielberg wanted his film filled with violent and gory shark attacks. He wanted us to watch as this massive animal, built to kill, would attack his unsuspecting prey. But there was a problem. The mechanical sharks that were supposed play a staring role in the film rarely worked as expected. As much as the young director wanted graphic shark attacks, he couldn’t have them.

Jaws-jaws-468738_1024_782

Frustrated, the team found another solution. They left most of the violence to our imaginations. Viewers would see a fin, then someone would disappear under the water, and then the water would turn red. That’s it. In other scenes, we wouldn’t even see a fin, we’d see a yellow barrel surfing across the water, knowing that it was a shark, deep below, towing the rope attached to the barrel towards the next victim. The effect was so scary and so powerful, it influenced our entire society.

Though people were of course aware of sharks prior, there was little thought given to them when they went to the beach. After Jaws, however, there was a significant increase in shark hysteria that remains to this day. The funny thing is that there are more people killed by dogs each year than have been killed by sharks since they started counting sharks attacks.

The brilliant way in which Spielberg told the story of Jaws did not happen in a brainstorming session and it was certainly not planned. It was the solution he found when what he wanted wasn’t possible. The malfunctioning robots forced him to find another solution.

We have a false belief that innovation happens with lots of money and resources. In fact, the opposite is true. It is a lack of resources, it is a lack of money, it is after something goes wrong are we able to truly innovate – to truly re-imagine how something could work. This is why large companies rarely produce truly innovative products – because they have the money and resources to build anything they want. The problem is, the things they want aren’t that innovative because they weren’t hindered or forced to find new ways. Small businesses, in comparison, are where big ideas happen. Slim on money and resources, they figure out how to make something work with what they have. Then big businesses buy the small businesses for their big ideas.

To be clear, Spielberg was also a student of film. Without his mechanical shark, he was able to defer to his knowledge. He knew the techniques that Alfred Hitchcock used in his movies to build suspense – foreboding music, simple details and an view of the aftermath. The suspense, Spielberg knew, happened in our imaginations, not in our eyes. Though he knew this, he didn’t need to tap that knowledge until he had to. And that’s where having less produces more. There are plenty of smart people at large companies who don’t tap their brilliance because they don’t need to. They have all the resources they need. Smart entrepreneurs, in contrast, have no choice but to rely on their smarts and that’s why they can run innovation circles around large companies every single day.

Innovation is not born from the dream; innovation is born from the struggle. Innovation, at its core, is not simply about building the future; innovation is about solving problems in the present. And the best innovations, just like the shark in Jaws, is often something we don’t even know is there.

Read more from Simon here.
Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Vision >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek is an optimist. He believes in a bright future and our ability to build it together. Described as "a visionary thinker with a rare intellect," Simon teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people. With a bold goal to help build a world in which the vast majority of people go home everyday feeling fulfilled by their work, Simon is leading a movement to inspire people to do the things that inspire them.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.