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Ron Voigt

Innovation: A River Runs Through It

I spent a few years working in Paris, where the Seine River has played a pivotal role in the shaping of the city’s personality. As I stayed longer and got to know the city and its people better, one of the things that became clear to me was that the Seine River physically separated two distinct cultures of the city.

Image courtesy of www.aparisguide.com

The left bank, including the Latin Quarter, Montparnasse, and Sorbonne, is all about creativity, design and ideation. The right bank is more sophisticated and upright (or uptight), and it’s the side that gets the job done. This is where you’ll find the Champs Elysees, the Royal Palace, and most of the larger banks and businesses. The two sides cannot exist without each other, but they are culturally and physically divided by the Seine.

It struck me recently that this picture of the Seine dividing Creative from Execution can provide a helpful metaphor for the relationship of Design to Production in a different setting — product manufacturing companies all over the world. In fact, any company that innovates probably has a river that runs between its design and production functions.

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To Innovate Better: Get Surreal

Have you seen the Academy Award-Winning La La Land, where the stars dance through the cosmos and experience alternate realities? Or the commercial, where a famous freestyle dancer slides down the street, up the walls, over the marquee and beyond, transported by his next-gen earphones? Maybe you’ve seen this Russian packaging that superimposes conflicting scales.

Surrealism is bleeding into our reality, and I kind of think it’s a zeitgeist.

Simply defined, surrealism strives to reconcile our dreams with reality. As Victor Hugo penned, “Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet.”

The resolution of such wildly divergent polarities is quite an ambitious undertaking, no? Therein lies the power, as Carl Jung wrote: “The greater the contrast, the greater the potential. Great energy only comes from a correspondingly great tension of opposites.”

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