We're gonna talk about metaphor. Lot of metaphors today, I like metaphors, so I think they make things simple. So picture this, picture a middle-aged couple going on vacation and their teenage son is left at home. And he gets his friends over and of course there's a party but the other thing they do is they get this idea to build a giant slide. So over the course of several days, they put together scaffolding and plastic and sheets of plastic and water and they create a 60-foot slide that starts on the roof of this two-story house, goes down across the van that they've parked to use as a form of support, and across the yard where it actually loops up at the end. And the first kid goes up there and he stands at the top, 30 feet vertical, 60 feet long, and they say, "Are you ready?" And he drops into the slide with the water pouring from the hose behind him and he shoots down, and at the end of the slide, he shoots 16 feet in the air to land in a kiddie pool about 30 feet away. So this i...
s real, this guy's name is Ron, I don't know his last name, but this happened a few years ago. These kids built this slide, and it's a great video on YouTube, go check it out, it's called Ron's Slip and Slide. But the funny thing about this video is, as he lands in the pool and he gets out, he slaps high five with another kid who's got his arm in a sling. So we already know how that happened, right? And then another kid goes and he's like super nervous when he drops down and then he barely makes it in the pool, and the third kid goes and he launches and almost goes too far, and the metaphor here is that this slide and the kids are our metaphor for innovation. And very specifically, innovation is a process. You build it. You have to build a way to bring innovation into your system, into your organization. And it's necessarily fraught with risk, just like the slide. If it didn't have risk, it wouldn't be innovation, because it's been done before, so if it's not been done before, it necessarily has risks, so the slide is your innovation process, but the kids are your team. And they can have various emotional states from ready to go to terrified and everything in between because innovation can be scary, it's fraught with risk. And then of course, the kid with the sling is, well, it's you, right? The first one through the wall gets the most bloody. If you're leading innovation, I promise you that you will get beat up by the system. The antibodies will come out of the system to crush you because the status quo likes the way things are. No intention behind that, it just happens. So if you're leading innovation, you're going to get bloodied because the things that exist don't like to be changed. So that's the metaphor, I'm gonna introduce a couple of mindsets that are really important to innovation. So you might know this image of Marie Curie and her husband, Pierre, two-time Nobel Prize winner. One for physics, one for chemistry, first woman to ever win, first ever to win two, Marie Curie was an incredible idear. She had more ideas, she was able to put patterns together and think about things differently than frankly, anybody in the world, and invented some of the most important things in modern medicine and physics and chemistry. But she couldn't do it without Pierre, because Pierre actually designed all the experiments. They fall into two archetypes, the creative visionary, who's the idea person in this duo, and the operator, the people that actually get shit done. And as it turns out, this archetype plays out over and over again in great innovation history. The Wright Brothers, so Orville was the creative visionary of this duo. Orville was a truant, he dropped out of high school, he was probably ADD, he was constantly tinkering with things. His brother, Wilbur was a straight A student, had a full ride to Yale his senior year, and then his senior year in high school, he took a hockey puck to mouth, knocked out his four front teeth, and he was so embarrassed to be around girls that he decided he would not go to college and instead stayed home, started working in the family business, and frankly saved his brother's life over and over again, because when Orville wanted to test manned flight, about the third time out, Wilbur said, "Wait, "maybe we should use a sand bag." And they kept testing different ways and things until they finally were ready to do manned flight, and voila, one of the greatest inventions of modern history. Wozniak and Jobs, same dynamic. We tend to think of Steve Jobs as a creative visionary, and maybe he was as well, but he was definitely on record saying, "My number one job is to say no." And Wozniak actually invented the Apple computer from scratch with no help from Steve Jobs at all. Jobs just actually helped market it and operate. So again, that sort of same dynamic played out. Zuckerberg and Sandberg, same thing. Idea guy, operator girl. And then very famous, of course, is Walt and Roy. Everybody knows Walt, the creative visionary, the guy that invented the Magic Kingdom, the happiest place on earth, the talking mouse, but he didn't do it alone. Roy also brought us the Magic Kingdom, the happiest place on earth, the talking mouse, because when Walt had an idea, Roy made it happen. In fact, there's a famous story of Walt, true story, Walt had some idea midway through their careers, he walked into Roy's office and said, "I have this idea, "we're gonna do this thing, it's gonna be amazing." And this was a Friday, and then Monday morning, Roy worked the weekend to figure out actually how to do it. Walt walks in and Roy's sitting there, his hair's frazzled, he's been working the whole weekend, and he says, "Walt, that little idea, "that little idea's gonna cost us $2 million." Back when $2 million actually meant a lot of money. And Walt's response, why do you bother me with these insignificant details? But that's the way these two roles play out. Paul Allen and Bill Gates, another dynamic duo. Allen was the idea guy, in fact he wrote a book called Idea Guy. But these two actually, Paul was on CNN a couple years ago and he ranted for 13 minutes straight about the tension with Bill, and specifically he kept saying, "You know, I bring all these ideas, all these possibilities, "and Bill would just say no, no, no, "maybe, no, no, no, yes," and this is the way their relation played out. The idea guy bringing ideas and the operator actually judging them and making sure that they were doable and they were super successful until they parted and then, and frankly Paul Allen hasn't been all that successful since then, because of that dynamic tension has gone away. So you might know that you're in a room with creative visionaries if the conversation starts along a trajectory that's logical, like, you know, the next slide, we're gonna talk about B, C, and D, and then suddenly the conversation is about, does anybody notice there's blue LEDs over there and why is the red light on that camera over there and what's she doing over there on her computer? And suddenly, the conversation is all over the place because you're having what we call squirrel moments. Now squirrel moments happen with creative visionaries because they are not linear thinkers. They're lateral thinkers. And this could be frustrating for operators, people that like to go to A to B to C, they get frustrated when it goes from A to Z to K. But here's the thing, lateral thinkers are the innovators in a team. The way that innovators think is necessarily lateral. All great inventions come from co-opting something else from the left and right, almost no great invention comes from A to B to C to D, so if you quell all lateral thinking, you've just killed innovation in the room. Super dangerous. So a few years ago, I heard this story, actually from my boss, Mike Maddock, and it just really hit me. He was telling me the story of a guy names Larry Walters. So Larry wanted to fly. And he had this dream of flying and when he turned 18, he tried to apply to the Air Force Academy, and he was rejected because he had poor eyesight. So a few years later, he applied for a private pilot's license, still had the dream of flying, rejected because of poor eyesight. So now in his 30s, Larry still had this dream, and he decided to take matters into his own hands. And so Larry bought 37 weather balloons, which he then filled with helium. He tied them to his lawn chair. He then gathered up a BB gun, a walkie talkie, a sandwich, some beer, probably a lot of beer, and then told his girlfriend, he tied the balloons to his pickup truck which was then tied to the chair, and then he told his girlfriend to cut the cord. And his plan, his brilliant plan, was to float up above his backyard, take a few pictures, radio a few friends, pre-cellphone days, eat a sandwich, have a beer or two, shoot a couple balloons and drift gently back to his backyard. That was his plan. What actually happened is that Larry floated up to 17,000 feet where the prevailing winds took him quickly into LAX airspace where jetliners were on record saying, "I think I just saw a man "in a lawn chair." And he was up there for hours, five hours, I believe. The temperature at that altitude was much colder, his hands got cold, he tried to shoot a balloon, he dropped the BB gun. So now he's stuck and he's heading now towards the ocean, pretty scared, and then he got lucky in that the balloons started to lose their loft and he started to drift down and eventually he drifted into the power lines powering Long Beach County. Larry's a very lucky guy, 'cause somehow he managed to not electrocute himself, but he did take out power to the entire county. He managed to then somehow get to the ground, where he received the first of three awards, a $2,000 fine for invading the airspace of the airport. Second award was he won the Bonehead of the Year Award from the Gazette, and his third was, he was the runner up in the Darwin Awards, which, if you're not familiar, are given to people that improve the human race by eliminating themselves from it. Now the reason he only got a runner up is 'cause he didn't actually die. And the first time I heard this story, I'm like, exactly, what a bonehead, like, what was he thinking? Until I had this sinking feeling that I am Larry Walters. I do stuff like this. I don't plan, I don't consider the outcomes. I just get an idea and I pursue it because I too am a creative visionary just like Larry. But here's the thing, Larry did fly. He did. And what an amazing feat that still is when I think about it.