Is your organization struggling to be more “innovative” and create new ideas? There’s an “Innovation Agenda” but all that’s on it are status meetings to review the “idea pipeline” which is nothing more than a stale list of ideas that make the business incrementally better?
If you really want to innovate and shake things up, you can learn a thing or two from Captain Jack Sparrow. Aside from being some of the coolest movies ever made based on a lame amusement park ride that now kicks butt, the Pirates of the Caribbean’s star anti-hero can teach you a few things.
Sure – it seems everything Captain Jack does works out. All his crazy ideas end up looking brilliant even though at inception they’re a bit hare-brained. It’s a movie folks. Realize not all your ideas will work out well. You will have failures. That said, if you’re truly serious about being innovative, you have to accept some risk if you want the rewards that go with it.
Here’s what I think you can learn from Captain Jack Sparrow:
Forget the rules
For Captain Jack, there are no rules. Everything is in play. Heck, even the sacred Pirate Code is “more of a set of guidelines.” Captain Jack operates outside the rules. In doing so he creates new degrees of freedom that enable him to act in ways that someone encumbered by rules cannot. In that space outside the rules are some pretty interesting solutions.
Sure, you risk getting in trouble for breaking the rules and some rules should never be broken. However, don’t be afraid to at least intellectually explore the space outside your current “rules” and see if any creative ideas are lurking out there. When you find them you have a compelling case you can make for breaking the rules.
And if you simply decide to act like Captain Jack and break a rule because in that moment you saw an opportunity, you’ll find people are much more forgiving of a rule transgression when you demonstrate the value you captured by ignoring the rule in the first place.
Don’t Overlook the Simple Solutions
With all the data and information we have at our disposal we like making ideas all complexified because we think the more difficult they are to understand the better they might be.
Look at some of the great solutions Captain Jack and his crew come up with in their journeys. Most of the great ideas are born from simple items directly at hand. The key is in seeing that simple solution in the first place.
Don’t overlook the obvious. Simple solutions can succeed more frequently than complex ones because the team can actually understand and execute the simple solution.
When Captain Jack fights Barbossa over Cortez’s gold, he gives being cursed a try. He steals a piece of gold to see if it too will make him an immortal skeleton pirate zombie (which is awesome). Had he been wrong and the curse didn’t work, he would have been dead when Barbossa ran him through with his cutlass.
Instead, he became immortal and was able to compete with a competitor who was initially much better positioned to win.
It was a risk. He experimented. Something cool happened. When was the last time you experimented? Try something new just to see what will happen. Many times our hypotheses and the conventional wisdom are wrong.
No one in their right mind would accuse Captain Jack of not being bold. When he decides to take a risk he does so with gusto. He throws his entire being into it and absolutely commits all his energy to making whatever crazy idea he’s pursuing work.
Chasing an idea half-heartedly will doom you to failure. If you don’t commit and you aren’t bold, it will show through to your team. Your trepidation will manifest itself in counterproductive ways that undermine your chances of success. If you’re truly committed to innovation, pursue it boldly. The force of will is a force to be reckoned with.
You too can innovate like Captain Jack Sparrow. Forget the rules. Pursue simple ideas. Experiment. Be bold. I refer to him as “Captain” throughout this post because he always corrects people who leave it off as he sees that as a sign of disrespect. I respect the man’s audacity and innovation. You should too.
An administrative heads-up
Pretty soon we’ll be moving this blog to a new address. This site is (finally) being combined with our main thoughtLEADERS site as well as the site for my upcoming book One Piece of Paper. Just keep an eye out for our moving announcement. I think you’ll love the new look and layout. More soon…