Our Job is to Invent the Future

If we are trying to innovate, what is our actual job?

According to Mark Earls in Welcome to the Creative Age, our job is to invent the future.

Seems reasonable to me. Here is how he build that argument:

…opinions are what you get back from customers once you’ve done something, so they are largely irrelevant to you. They aren’t the precondition for customers doing something or a good guide to what you should do. At all.

So don’t waste your time with ask/answer research and opinions. Throw away the reassurance of quoting the consumer or stats garnered from opinion polls. Watch your customers, observe them, live with them, but don’t expect them to tell you much themselves. Because they can’t.

Instead, recognize:

  • It is your job to invent the future – you are the inventors.
  • It is not the customer’s job – they are not good at the future but they might buy your invention if you get it right (or not).

LeChatNoir and His Contraption (version Two Full Stop Ought)

I’m in the process of working through some focus group results for a consulting client. Against my advice, they insisted on doing this work to try to figure out the best use for a new piece of technology. So this section from Earls rings particularly true for me at the moment.

I keep trying to tell them that it is up to them to invent the future – customers may well play a co-creative role in the process, but first my client has to come up with an idea, a proposal to put in front of their customers. It’s their job.

Since they’re not listening to me, I hope that you will.

If we’re trying to innovate, it’s our job to invent the future. As simple as that. And as frustrating, vexingly hard as that too. In any case, it’s our job. Time to get started.

(photo from flickr/redteam under a Creative Commons License (discovered after searching for “contraption”!)