Cool guys don't look at explosions, or validated hypotheses from minimum viable prototypes.
Cool guys don’t look at explosions, or validated hypotheses from minimum viable prototypes.

The clock ticks down… 00:07, 00:06, our hero grabs the secret briefcase and kicks the evil mastermind sprawling to the floor. 00:04, 00:03. “Seems like you forgot to study the map with the escape routes!” the villain cackles. Our hero runs towards the walls of the mountain-top base and looks hundreds of feet down the cliffs to the ground. “I don’t need to study” he says while looking back at the villain. 00:01 “I’ve got the cliff notes.” 00:00 He leaps over the wall, his tuxedo transforming into a paraglider as he is silhouetted by the massive explosion behind him.

Whew! What a cliffhanger! (See what I did there?) Action adventure stories can leave us with a rush of excitement and adrenaline, whether they are movies or books. This past week I was able to attend a local meet-up of writers. The topic of the day was action adventure heroes and plot structure. It was an excellent discussion but my mind kept coming back to innovation.

For example, in action adventure stories, there are good guys and there are bad guys. It is a clean division of Team Yay and Team Boo. The hero, solidly in the Team Yay category, doesn’t wan’t to understand the bad guys. He wants to defeat and eliminate them. The story usually takes place in a unique location that the hero is not one-hundred percent comfortable; it is not his home turf.

At this point, a light went off in my head. Take those points about the hero in action adventure stories and portray it as someone against innovation. There are clear distinctions between what they support (this is Team Yay because it isn’t risky) and what they don’t support (this stuff is Team Boo because it scares me). Our anti-innovation “hero” wants to defeat and eliminate the risky items on Team Boo. And in fact, this usually occurs when data or trends are suggesting that change is happening around them, making the market hostile to this person.

So many parallels. And then this brain-bolt struck.

In an action adventure story the protagonist doesn’t grow as a person over the course of the movie/novel. There is no realization that a different solution may work. Rambo never wants to talk it out. James Bond never invites a woman over to just watch Netflix. Indiana Jones never seeks therapy to overcome his fear of snakes. (I think its connected to early childhood trauma from taking his dog’s name as his own)

Action heroes are a metaphor for the fight against change. They are a protector of reader’s/watcher’s mental status quo.

“Life is too short to fight the forces of change. Life is too short to hate what you do all day.Life is too short to make mediocre stuff.” Seth Godin, Tribes

So just remember that to some, we innovators are seen as the bad guys. We challenge their worldview, we smash the status quo, we trod down paths that don’t exist yet. Our task is to take out-of-the-box ideas and pitch them in-the-box. And sure, these action heroes may be laggards when it comes to adoption, but think of all the learning that is to be had by observing and developing empathy for their point of view!


  • Identify someone that has been the action adventure hero to your innovation.
  • Gain empathy for their views by observing what they say and do.
  • Talk to them one-on-one and discover their thoughts and feelings around your innovation.
  • Use those four points of empathy (think, say, feel, do) to look at your innovation a new way.
  • BONUS: Get them to champion your innovation!

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