Innovation Inspiration #025—Prioritize the Inflexible

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Yesterday I missed the event of a lifetime—watching the Endeavor  fly across the Golden Gate Bridge, because I scheduled my day in the wrong order, and didn’t flip it around when circumstances changed.

I was in the City coincidentally, taking care of two important tasks; one at the edge and one in the middle of the city. When I realized the shuttle was coming, I believed I would finish with the second one in time to get back to a good viewing spot.

Then a signal breakdown on Caltrain delayed my whole schedule by 45+ minutes, and I continued on with my plan, frantically rushing back to the Ferry Building just in time to see a spec of the shuttle flash by through the window of a MUNI bus.

The two errands could have been done a few hours or days later, with very little penalty and no change in the results. Looking back, I realize I made the wrong choice, but I still got a few benefits from the experience.

Trying to use online news reports, Twitter, and the NASA website to figure out the actual time of the flyby and the ideal viewing locations exposed me to a whole slew of technological shortcomings that I’m still processing, trying to synthesize a design/innovation lesson that I can turn into something valuable.

But I failed to meet the objective of seeing this once-only event.

My point to this lesson is to reinforce what I’ve been sharing here about how to be creative and innovate. The only way to do this is to relax the brain by taking your nose off the grindstone and enjoy life, for it is things noticed and lessons learned outside the office or house walls that one can most benefit from. The wider the variety of experiences, the better. And it might take a few days, weeks, or months for me to figure out exactly what I learned from missing the shuttle (which is why Dan Pink calls it the “slow hunch”), but I already have a couple of obvious conclusions and a general idea of what form the truly innovative insight will take.

Author: Peter Sheerin

Peter Sheerin is best known for the decade he spent as the Technical Editor of CADENCE magazine, where he was the acknowledged expert in Computer-Aided Design hardware and software. He has a long-standing passion for improving usability of software, hardware, and everyday objects that is always interwoven in his articles. Peter is available for freelance technical writing and product reviews, and is exploring career opportunities in interaction design. His pet personal project is exploring the best ways to harmonize visual, tactile, and audible symbols for improving the effectiveness of alerting systems.

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