Creating the future while minding your business

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The last day of the Buckminster Fuller exhibit at the Whitney delivered many surprising moments of genius. Visionary and inventor, Buckminster is an innovator’s innovator. He saw the value of drawing upon interdisciplinary fields to inform a unique and faceted view of the world. His work is grounded in helping people with a do “more with less” attitude that extended to environmental impact. While it is easy to hand wave this exhibition as an old time futurist, his philosophy alone was worth absorbing.

There are many ways to go about change. Over the last couple of years, innovation has become all the rage. It is seen as the fundamental approach to growth. Companies exist to deliver value to customers through the creation of products and services. Through the innovation contributed by products and services companies compete for higher sales, larger market share and if they are lucky the hearts of their clients and customers.
Companies also consider innovating on their business a key model for transformation. Many change makers push against the system to get it to change, to innovate and evolve. In the end, the fastest and most exciting opportunities are those that usurp the existing establishment. They politely and subtly thumb the current way of thinking, in favor for an alternative approach, one that could change the landscape completely. Apparently, Buckminster Fuller saw this approach as the only viable approach to change.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

R. Buckminster Fuller

The resistance to change, even from the most progressive is an adversary that drains the innovator directly. More time is spent talking than doing. People argue about subtle points to maintain the current course and speed. My father taught me at a young age that if you always do what you always have done, then you always get what you have always gotten. What is difficult here is that it takes the majority of workers to deliver on today; after all, it brings in the money to create for tomorrow. In order to remain viable companies need to invest just as heavily in inventing and innovating for tomorrow. Traditional R&D organizations are no longer the primary source of innovation and there is lots of research that suggests answers is in the masses. This is an area where maybe only a few are required to institute change.

Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

No one wants what he or she has today, but if that is all the people of a company spend time doing, then how could any expect anything more than a game of catch up? Something far more radical would be to create an organizational structure that enabled the pursuit of both present and future with equal vigor.

Change is a critical part of business. Fuller’s attitude toward creation, focused on his contribution without regard to if the world was ready. The world catches up and regardless of success is influenced by the doing.