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Hard Aground

We were hard aground on a South Pacific reef, with the sun and the tide both falling. We had gone through the prescribed steps from my Advanced Cruising class, but nothing had worked. Time was not on our side. We needed to try something different. The prescribed steps had included trying to back out the way we came, setting a kedge, heeling the boat, rocking the boat, alternating the rudder, alternating forward and reverse gears, and removing weight from the boat (we launched the dinghy). We needed to do something innovative.

Innovation Solves Problems

Innovation is what advances our technology, culture, political systems, and modes of expression. It can come about by intention or by accident and can sometimes cause more problems than it solves. The word innovation refers to introducing new ideas, devices, or methods. Innovation necessarily involves change and is therefore often met with resistance. Serendipitous innovation includes things like the accidental discovery of penicillin, while innovative technology like the iPhone is highly intentional.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. —Henry Ford

Innovation can be used to compete, to adapt, to survive, or to simply make our lives better. In business, innovation is used to compete, differentiating one provider’s product or service from that of their competitor. Innovation has long been used to adapt to challenging living environments. Fur parkas and other clothing were innovations that allowed people to move to cold, arctic climates. War and military defense have been leading drivers of innovation for millennia, often aimed at surviving the existential threats of an enemy. But not all innovation is so dark. Kitchen gadgetry has long attracted innovation because of the necessary and repeated job of preparing food.

The only dimension of culture that is universally applicable across organizations is innovation. – California Management Review

You might find innovation to be risky and to require too much work, and therefore not want to innovate. But if your business competitor or a bordering country are innovating, you will have to keep up or lose. So, like it or not, being alive means being in a never-ending arms race of innovation. It will probably lead to a happier life to embrace the change, rather than fighting it. In the case of our boat, the innovation that got it free from the reef was to use the dinghy as a tug to gently push our bow toward deep water.

Embracing innovation, whether in the crisis of a hard grounding, or the competitive market, is more than a choice; it's a necessity for growth, adaptation, and survival. The innovation that freed our boat from the reef wasn't the result of a grand technological breakthrough but a simple, creative solution. It's a reminder that innovation isn't always about monumental shifts but often lies in the willingness to see things differently and try new approaches. What innovation will you embrace today?


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