I posted the following back in 2011, and its message is just as vital today. Unfortunately, the link to the Occasional CEO article no longer works. I'm hoping that Eric, who occasionally stops by here, will provide the correct information—at which point I'll fix the link.


Educators, please don't miss this post on innovation from the Occasional CEO.

Children in America used to want to become cowboys and Indians, doctors and firemen, astronauts and acrobats. Now they want to become entrepreneurs and innovators. They are told they must change the world, often before they enter it.

But 90% of the population should not become innovators.

It’s not because they can’t do it well, though that’s possible too. It’s just that innovation can cause great damage to the things we love. To the guy making the fries at McDonalds or the pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks: Don’t innovate. To the person building the next lot of iPhones from which I’ll be purchasing one: Please don’t innovate. To my tax accountant: Do Not innovate. The mechanic fixing my car. The pilot flying my plane. To the fine people at Apple: For goodness sake, stop sending me updates and new operating systems. I hate em. Just when I get everything the way I like, you innovate me into something that costs me two hours at the Apple Bar. Where, incidentally, I want zero innovation from your hip kids in blue shirts. Just follow the FAQs and fix my iPad.

When we complain that schools are not teaching our kids to innovate, I say: Bravo! People who can innovate will always find ways to innovate, while most of the rest of us need a serious tutorial in how to follow directions. Show up on time. Do our jobs. That’s not something that comes naturally for many human beings.

There’s nothing less intelligent or inferior about people who practice consistency. Consistency takes extraordinary talent, just like innovation. ... We have made innovation glamorous and consistency somehow mundane and less worthwhile. That’s our fault, not the fault of talented people whose consistency, attention to order, willingness to show up all the time and insistence on a little good ol' tradition improves our lives.

Here endeth the lesson; the following is my editorial comment:

Children do not need to be taught to be innovators and inventors. They need to be taught the facts and skills that will become materials and the tools with which they can innovate, practice consistency, or both. Then they need freedom and time and opportunities to learn to use those tools effectively.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 7, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Edit
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Long story, Linda, but I took the post down so that I could update and include it in "Innovation on Tap." Then, my 650-page manuscript got slashed by unsympathetic editors (redundant, I think) to 350 pages. That essay is one that hit the cutting room floor. So, it needs to go back online when I get a minute. Thanks for the link, though! I am not exactly built for the social media world.

Posted by Eric on Tuesday, September 10, 2019 at 10:16 am
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