The lights dim, the speakers come to life and the screen brightens to reveal a new adventure, a new world filled with characters that we will come to know and, eventually, cheer for as the story unfolds. What will happen? What will we learn? What will be asked of us? We allow our mind to be at play with this medium and give ourselves the freedom to imagine and believe in the unbelievable for a few hours. What if we allowed our mind to be at play at other times and in other aspects of our lives?
Rosebud. With that one word the search began for what Charles Foster Kane meant. What is interesting is no one was present to hear that final word before he died. As the audience, we were in on the pretense from the very beginning and as the meaning was pursued, we simply accepted it and followed the story as it unfolded. That willing suspension of disbelief is one example of film’s many facets that can teach us; perhaps even persuade us to be more open to what might be possible. Orson Welles, the film’s director and trickster, uses this plot device to lead the audience on a journey to reveal more about the man known as Kane. Forgive this revelation if you have not seen the film but Rosebud was the sleigh from Kane’s childhood. It symbolized the lifelong yearning to return to his childhood and play that was cut short. According to The Imagination Challenge by Alexander Manu, each one of us has the potential to discover and use the trickster capability as a medium into the creation of new and meaningful experiences. With that in mind, what question can be asked of your organization or of yourself that would propel it and/or you on a journey of innovation and discovery? What could be learned along that journey? What would it mean to the various stakeholders? It all begins with a question starting with What…?
With those two statements, Henry Fonda’s character in 12 Angry Men was able to gradually persuade the eleven other jurors that the plaintiff they were so quick to condemn could possibly be innocent. Often his response when questioned by the other jurors about facts of the case was, “I don’t know.” His willingness to express his uncertainty served as a catalyst to foster doubt in the minds of the other jurors. He began to turn the tide when he asked the other jurors to question the validity of some of the testimony and, ultimately, was it possible that there could have been other causes of the events leading up to and including the crime being tried? Ultimately, his contrarian view led to a verdict of NOT GUILTY. Can Fonda’s approach be applied to our own objective to innovate? By that I mean, can we as leaders and/or managers facilitate the process of innovation by posing questions and perpetuate the exploration of what could or might be? Rather than lead a team or, on a larger scale, an organization to a conclusion- why not turn them back on themselves to question and test the thoughts and ideas that develop as innovation is pursued? No question, thought or idea is wrong. There should be no fear of embarrassment or repercussions - just a period of free collaboration or unhindered PLAY. Think of it is working with only a pencil and no eraser. Everything is noted but not discarded. How far could we get by continually asking What if…?
What do Sparta, Persia and Canada have in common? They were all involved in the making of 300. The director, Zach Snyder, had an idea bring Frank Miller&apos;s graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. to life. The pitch- Make a film about 300 Spartans battling a much larger Persian Army and film it in a warehouse in Montreal. Locations, Environments or Worlds that are too far or too costly to reach or, perhaps, do not even exist can now be created within the film medium of today. Filmmakers with foresight for what might be possible can bring stories of new worlds and periods to life. If Zach Snyder can look at an empty Warehouse and see Thermopylae then can we not look at our surroundings and see new things, new worlds, and new possibilities by allowing ourselves the freedom to treat them as spaces for PLAY? What are the possibilities for a cubicle? An office? A virtual team connected around the world? What can we see? What can we render with our imagination? Just how literal or figurative is the PLAY and how will that tie into the objective of innovation? Who knows? The question still remains – what’s possible?
To some of you this idea may not be new. Multi-touch or multi-input computing may not be new either. Microsoft’s Surface Computing project Milan is simply validation of where computing and our interaction with it is headed. It is proof that what was imagined in Minority Report is now possible. Furthermore, it illustrates the idea of Dataspace discussed in The Imagination Challenge which defines dataspace as any perimeter containing communication and data-enabled devices, fixtures, or structures. The proximity of a user to the surface or two devices connecting via the surface become the enabled data that the book discusses. If we can now interact with a coffee table then what will we interact with next? What enabled data situations will we create from facilitating the interaction of two or more devices within a space, a space that was previously dormant, or from our mere proximity? If we left our cellphone in the same bag with our laptop, what kind of conversation or data exchange would they have? What would our cellphone tell others about us should they come in contact with it? Will the security portals at the airport recommend that we get a checkup? Take that a step further and the security portal could possibly connect with our doctor and/or our records and prescribe treatment. Just maybe…
The preceding has given you some different examples of films that ask you to consider new ways of looking at them and how they can suggest approaches to innovation in your work and in your organization. If we step back further and consider the process of filmmaking itself as a guide for innovation then it shows us how an idea can be proposed, get expanded upon through various machinations, formalized into a screenplay and, finally, filmed. Throughout the process artisans collaborate and contribute their expertise to the vision for the finished film – taking it from written word to a visual end. Artisans free to play, to create and innovate, as required, in pursuit of the final vision. Asking questions along the way and turning plots in on themselves to test their believability and structure. The next time you watch a film consider where it has taken you, how it got you there and how, in your own work, you can apply the mindset of artisan, storyteller or trickster and bring about innovation in your organization. It is through the asking of questions that reach beyond the obvious or finite answers that we can lead ourselves and our organization through the process of innovation. Questions like: What will or should happen next? Where shall we go? What shall we do? What should we do? What could we do? Some might think, most importantly, what can we do? In other words, what is possible?