“Yeah, but, John, if The Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.” – Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park as intended was a delightful journey in a self-driving jeep on rail through some thoughtfully planned dinosaur habitats. Tourists were to have a safe and scripted experience; seeing exactly what was on the brochure.
Jurassic Park as a reality involved broken fences and wild chases off the preferred path. Between Jurassic Park as intended and as reality, only one of them is an authentic adventure with the thunder-lizards.
This is what Nassim Taleb calls “Touristification” in his book Antifragile. He refers to touristification as the opposite of chaotic and rich adventure; experiences lined up that can be played by actors reading from a script.
“It is the systematic removal of uncertainty and randomness from things, trying to make matters highly predictable in their smallest details.” – Nassim Taleb, Antifragile
Touristification is rampant in innovation. Too many people use the jargony buzzword of “innovation” because it looks good to investors and no one wants to not “do innovation”. And let’s be honest, touristifying innovation isn’t malicious. It’s just a different level of commitment. It’s the pig and chicken breakfast fable. Who is really all in?
Touristification of innovation is easy to do. There are so many slides, models, webinars that we can attend. Some are really fantastic. What makes the difference is how they are applied afterwards.
Taking what you learned and just slapping it on your own problems, in a One Size Fits All manner, and you’re one step closer to jeeps on rails and audio-animatronic dinos.
What those seminars, blogs, books, and trainings offer are mental models for getting started. They are lenses to apply to your situation. But you cannot rely on the universe always adhering to your mental model. The universe, quite frankly, doesn’t care. Ed Catmull, in Creativity, Inc., talked about how failed mental models based on one event can be difficult to divert from.
“Our mental models aren’t reality. They are tools, like the models weather forecasters use to predict the weather.” – Ed Catmull
So what’s a good-natured innovator to do? How do we avoid the $5.99 t-shirt model of innovation?
I am a huge advocate of learning. Learning to deepen your knowledge AND learning to start digging into a new topic. So please, keep going to out and learning about innovation.
But next you have to get your hands dirty. Get in the muck and the mire and make something. It is a practice in self-similarity. If you are looking to make changes about your product, then zoom out as well and look to how you can make changes to your own existing mental models. The adventure of innovation is that not only do your projects change, but you are also changed when you come out the other side.