Nobody invents everything they do, innovating all of the time. Most of the time, we are part of the community, resisting newer untried innovations merely by not abandoning older accepted ones. It’s important for innovators to regularly remind themselves about how it feels to be “everyone else”.

Failure to address this ‘inability to identify with the other side’ issue in the typical innovator/non-innovator interaction can lead to serious trust issues, where such things as ‘innovations which can save lives’ could easily be rejected out of hand, with potentially tragic consequences:

Here is a famous example where an innovator sets up a picture of the world where innovators are ultimately in a seemingly interminable struggle with the rest of society.

A good example of an innovator talking about innovators in a way that was meant to reinforce our conviction that innovators are ‘different and separate’ from everyone else was Camille Paglia, who, whilst proclaiming herself to be an ardent feminist, wanted to convince us that almost all innovators (including herself) were essentially male:

Whilst these thoughts about the nature of the innovator are worth considering, and whilst both examples suggest the possibility that we may not have ‘handled the innovator in a way which helps us get the best from them’, perhaps we will be able to address this better if, instead of treating innovators as a separate species, we start to think of ‘being an innovator’ as a ‘mode’ which probably pervades us all at various times and to various extents.

Rehabilitating the non-innovator

Perhaps we need to recognise that ‘non-innovators’ (i.e., any of us in our ‘non-innovator mode’) need to be equally respected for their contribution to innovation (for example, caution and scepticism is often at least as valuable as ‘early adoption’ and passionate enthusiasm).

A need for innovation in how to be a better non-innovator

We desperately need to put some innovative thought into how to be more constructive (in terms of communication between innovators and non-innovators, for instance in ‘challenging without dismissing’) as ‘non-innovators’, in order to help innovators to provide us all with a better service.

The first video is of a talk called Community and Innovators by Professor Hilary Austen at TEDx SoMa held in San Francisco on June the 18th, 2011

The second video is of a speech by the character Howard Roark (portrayed by Gary Cooper) from the 1949 King Vidor film The Fountainhead based on a 1943 book by Ayn Rand

The third video is a TV interview with Camille Paglia by Bob Costas on the NBC Later show in 1992