How many times in your life have you seen a simple new invention that went viral and said, “Why didn’t I think of that?” The figit spinner—a stupid toy for people who do not know how to process their anxiety, which is a growing population in the States as technology continues to speed up the pace of life. Why didn’t I think of that?! Mod Pizza is another one. It’s like Chipotle but for pizza. Choose your ingredients and they throw it in the oven for a couple minutes. Why didn’t I think of that? I know the son of the guy who invented the Lock Box for real estate brokers. Darn it! Why didn’t I think of that? In ‘N Out Burger. Just one good burger on the menu and nothing else but the rare experience of quality service in the fast food industry. So simple and so successful. The list of “Why didn’t I think of that’s” goes on and on. Why? The irony is that while I have frequently asked the question, “Why didn’t I think of that?”, I have never taken the time to try to answer the question. Tina Seelig’s book, “Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World” is essentially an answer to the question, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Seelig would say, “Because you did not take the time and intentionality to follow the Invention Cycle, while people like Jeff Bezos actually did (from distributing books in a garage to the largest retailer in the world), whether they realized it or not.”
The Invention Cycle is what Seelig understands to be the process by which inventors/innovators/entrepreneurs “get ideas out of [their] heads and into the world.” These four phases, according to Seelig, are 1. Imagination, 2. Creativity, 3. Innovation, and 4. Entrepreneurship. The “Imagination” phase is where people begin to imagine alternative solutions to the problems they are seeking to address. Imagination is the world of ideas and brainstorming. From the multitude of ideas comes the need for motivation and experimentation of some of these ideas. This is the “Creativity” phase, where ideas are tested. The third phase, “Innovation,” is where refinement of experimentation takes place. Innovation requires a sense of focus and the ability to reframe problems into new solutions. Out of this phase is the emergence of “Entrepreneurship” where, with persistence and inspiring others, action happens.
This is an important book for me as I begin my new work building a non-profit mission-oriented foundation that seeks to develop new programs that will help to forge pathways for children and youth in high risk situations to flourish in life. We have some funding, some relationships, a few skills and a lot of ideas. What kinds of programs should we create? How do we build something that is sustainable and transformational? How do we offer something unique and distinctive that will meet real needs and make a real difference, like Scott Harrison’s story of birthing Charity Water after his experience on the Mercy Ship. Right now, we are in the “Imagination” phase, throwing hundreds of ideas onto the wall, and a few gallons of anxiety about how to make any of them into reality. The temptation we face, born out of anxiety, is to start throwing programs together without moving intentionally through the Invention Cycle.
Our ideas are ranging from mentor programs for kids with incarcerated parents, to after-school programs, to a competitive soccer club for under-resourced families, to digital initiatives, to wilderness adventures for inner city youth, to trauma recovery and healing for surviving victims of sex trafficking, to a discipleship house for Westmont students, and on and on. The “Imagination” phase is exciting but also super scary because we know we need to put some of these ideas to action, which of course requires a willingness to fail.
I wonder if the willingness to fail is one of the primary qualities of successful entrepreneurs. Of course it is! Entrepreneurs are voyagers and explorers, and many of them are probably “7’s” on the Enneagram. As a strong 7 myself, my challenge is to move through Creativity to Innovation because I tend to live in the world of ideas. Everyday I have lots of new ideas, but I struggle to implement them. This is precisely why I need this book and hope that it will be helpful to me in this new venture my partner and I are starting. While I did not have time in one week to work through all the exercises at the end of each chapter, I see that the book will be helpful if I take it slow.