It’s day one of the Women President’s Organisation annual conference and its off to a great start.  The keynote presentation was delivered by Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink which are two books that recently have changed people’s thinking on big concepts.

Today he was in fine form tackling the topic of innovation by providing a comparison between the approaches of Picasso and Cezanne.  What he was really referring to was the issue of big bold ideas that make short term impact versus constant experimentation and small improvements over time.  It was fascinating and gave credence to all those in the audience who perhaps were thinking “should I give up or keep going?” with any innovation that they are working on that is not yet yielding results.

He referred to several other examples where the same principles apply…..It took Fleetwood Mac over 10 years and 15 albums until they created their 16th hit album Rumours which was one of the top five biggest selling albums of all time.  Compare this to the drive by the music industry these days for artistes to deliver instant results. 

Orson Wells directed Citizen Kane when he was aged 24 compared to Alfred Hitchcock who was in his late fifties by the time he directed Vertigo and had been experimenting and honing his craft for years.  Both films were hugely successful and yet were created using very different innovative approaches.

What Gladwell was really saying was that there are two approaches to innovation – one the short term bold concept that can be easily described in advance and will make a major impact, and the other is those in it for the long term, and who cannot easily describe what the end outcome will be, as its only through constantly experimenting and making small improvements that they realise the innovation in the end.  Both can yield great financial results, but one requires patience which seems to be in short supply these days in the business world.

I came away thinking that since Mission Possible has been going for 10 years and we are constantly experimenting and improving what we do that we are probably in the Cezanne camp – which means that Mission Achieved will be at some future time …..