BA 850
Sustainability-Driven Innovation

 

Closing Remarks

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A Succession of Little Things


"My view on this is as follows: the result must be an action, not an abstract idea. I think principles are good and worth the effort only when they develop into deeds, and I think it's good to reflect and to try to be conscientious, because that makes a person's will to work more resolute and turns the various actions into a whole. I think that people such as you describe would get more steadiness if they went about what they do more rationally, but otherwise I much prefer them to people who make a great show of their principles without making the slightest effort to put them into practice or even giving that a thought. For the latter have no use for the finest of principles, and the former are precisely the people who, if they ever get round to living with willpower and reflection, will do something great. For the great doesn't happen through impulse alone, and is a succession of little things that are brought together." - Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, October 22, 1882.
"For the great doesn't happen through impulse alone, and is a succession of little things that are brought together."


As Lesson 7 comes to a close, I'd like to take a moment to cover a common thread which infuses our time together, and that is that when it comes to innovation, details make the difference. Whether it is finding an opportunity, understanding the space, or creating Means End Chains and Cognitive Maps, many do not realize the amount of time, thought, and rigor it takes to create a new "innovation." This is just as we see in van Gogh's letters: The famously impulsive and eccentric artist best known for cutting off part of his own ear in a fit of frustration was extremely concerned with detail and process.

But, also, just as in van Gogh's passage, "principles are good and worth the effort only when they develop into deeds." We can have the utmost concern about the steps we take in research and rigor, but we must never forget the end goal: This is all in service of creating the most compelling offering possible. We must never find ourselves lost in the process and doing something without knowing exactly and specifically why. Interviewing users and creating MEC and Maps could certainly fall into this category, as one could simply go out and feel that they need to "talk" to some customers, and therefore don't give the interviews or analysis proper attention. Because the desired result of those interviews is muted or lost, interviewing customers simply becomes a minimally engaged "checkoff" in a process of which we have lost sight.

If there is a single methodology or mechanism which time and time again helps to refine and progress the strategy of any organization, is it a well-executed Cognitive Map. It is a simple, yet powerful tool, and one I promise you will find myriad uses and adaptations for over time. I hope to be able to further your experience with both Means End Chains and Cognitive Maps in this week's exercise.

Just as a painter considers every brushstroke in service of the larger image, so too must we remember that our attention to detail is in service of the larger, more meaningful end.

"... the result must be an action, not an abstract idea."


Creating Our Own 'Succession of Little Things'

To refresh ourselves, here are our goals for this week's Lesson:

  • Create a cognitive map to find strategically potent areas of white, gray, and black space in the minds of the customer.
  • Deconstruct ideas and strategies to understand if they reflect full means-ends chains and sustainability thinking.
  • Identify pathways of potential interest and innovation.

To these ends, this week's effort will have us creating and working hands-on to create a draft Cognitive Map, and then examining strategically interesting spaces within.