Innovation Workshop With Columbus

After returning from discovering America Columbus was honored in a series of celebrations. At one such party he was criticized by a gentleman who said: “What’s the big deal, anyone sailing west could have found America”. Columbus went and fetched a cooked egg and challenged all those present to balance the egg on its sharp end. One after the other they tried but they all failed. The egg would not balance and would not stand on the pointed end. Finally Columbus picked the egg and smashed the pointing end on the table just enough for it to balance the egg. To the amazement of all the egg stood balanced. Columbus looked around and proclaimed. “Anyone of you could have done it but I found the way!”

What are the lessons from Columbus’ workshop on exploration and innovation?

1. Discoveries and innovations often look obvious after the fact. After a truth has been articulated, after a discovery has been made known, after a development has been tested and refined, they often look simple and easily accomplished. But they were not obvious before someone articulated, discovered, tested and put them in front of people.
2. The bigger part of innovation is not what you do but how you do it.
3. Think outside the egg.
4. It’s not enough to discover America; you need to also sell it, or to sell your ability to discover the next America. Whether you come up with a technological idea, a service, a solution, a new process, a scientific breakthrough, a business model or a new creative design – It’s not enough that it is promising; you’ve got to be able to communicate it and deliver the good.
5. Be always ready to show what you know.

© Aviv Shahar

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