Did you know that there are two faces of an innovator? An artist face and a visionary face. Every successful innovator must know the difference between these two. Otherwise, she may not understand why she sometimes succeeds and at other times fails at innovation.
I recall meeting a well-known and successful entrepreneur in Boston. He impressed me with his entrepreneurial flair. When we first met, he mentioned that was writing a novel and needed some advice from me. We met in my office after that to talk about his ventures and his book. He surprised me with his words. “Professor, I can take my ventures to the next level with ease. Then why do I struggle with this novel?”
What baffled him was why he could innovate with ease in one case and not in another. He didn’t understand the distinction between the two faces of an innovator.
The Artist Face
The first face of the innovator is that of an artist. The artist innovator searches for a clear vision of what the world could be. It is a journey towards clarity of an idea. The second face is that of a visionary. He moves with a clear vision and a burning desire to achieve it.
The artist is not satisfied with the status quo and searches for a clear picture of what it could be. A whisper of discontent is a hallmark of this face. This constant whisper in the ear moves the artist forward. This journey is often an inner journey wherein the artist is struggling with a lot of emotional hurdles. His journey involves connecting the dots, eliminating the unnecessary to find the essence of an idea.
Midnight in Paris, my favorite Woody Allen movie, is an excellent example of the artist face of an innovator. Owen Wilson is a writer who epitomizes this face. His whisper of discontent is all about the banality of modern existence. Wilson’s perfect world lies in an earlier era. His journey takes him to the 1920s, where he meets giants such as Hemingway and Cole Porter and many others. As he goes through his journey, he eventually gets to the clarity of his vision.
Even if you are a business manager, you will walk the path of the artist when you search for clear vision. A vision of what your world could be. Without this clear vision, the rest of the journey would be much harder for you.
The Visionary Face
The visionary innovator is dissatisfied with what the world is. What the world should be is so clear that the current reality looks like a pale shadow of what it can be. That dissatisfaction drives this innovator. He pushes the reality to match his vision
The artist knows there is something better, but cannot see it clearly. The visionary can see the goal but faces hurdles in moving to it fast enough. The frustration of an artist is to gain clarity. He struggled with the clarity of the final form. The frustration of the visionary is that the world is not moving fast enough to match his vision.
A good movie that shows the path of a visionary is The Aviator. DiCaprio’s character is driven by a vision clear to him only. As a result, he pushes his organization and the world to a great extent to match his vision.
Become familiar with both faces
The innovator needs to be familiar with both these faces. If one almost always puts on just one face, he may lack the required skills associated with the second face. This lack of competencies may cause a frustrating journey at times. These two need different mindsets and different skills. They make you overcome different hurdles.
With which face of the innovator are you more comfortable? The artist face or the visionary face?