Describing Ingenuity


In the fourth segment, we consider ingenuity. Ingenuity is  your go-to Uber skill for everyday execution of your mission in a complex system. You can listen to the audio below. There is also a transcript if you would like to refer back to this segment.

Your mission is too important and your resources too precious.

Work with ingenuity!



Transcript Below: The transcript below is not meant to replace listening to the audio, but serves as a reference for post-listening learning. Please forgive any errors due to the skill level of the A.I. robot that created this transcript. 


I feel bad for ingenuity. I mean, ingenuity used to be like everyone’s best friend. And then one day innovation came to town sort of like the Buzz Lightyear of human dynamics. And it unseeded ingenuity as the best friend. Now, everyone wants to be innovative. The word is everywhere. Everyone wants to be innovative. Everyone declares their innovation. It’s on buildings. It’s in titles that are attached to people’s jobs. It’s on fliers, it’s on products.

It’s in commercials. Everyone wants to be innovative. But you know what, you know what? I want to try to restore ingenuity as your best friend. Not that innovation can’t happen. And not that it’s not important. My ability to talk to you through the means by which I am doing this, recording this on a day, you didn’t even know I was doing it. And now you’re listening to it on a day. I don’t know you’re listening to it. That’s all because of innovations and breakthroughs in technology. I like innovation. Innovation is a good friend.

I mean, a really good friend, but I still think ingenuity should be our best friend. And what I like to say is this, if you practice ingenuity, one day, you might innovate. But your bread and butter go to every day skill is ingenuity. And by the way, that’s true, not only for you, but as we’ll see later. That’s true for people at Apple, and other extremely innovative companies. So what is this best friend, if I were going to introduce you to this best friend named ingenuity? How would I describe it to you? For me, in my work in research, and in just the plethora of information that’s out there on ingenuity.


I’ve described it as a quality as a skill, as a behavior as a set of actions that revolve around three elements. The first one is the ability to find usable ideas. Ingenuity includes an ability to find usable ideas. usable in my definition, has two important qualities. It’s novel. And it’s doable. novel in the sense that it breaks through some inertia that keeps your mission in advancement mode. Some teams get stuck. And they’re just over and over hashing out ideas. They may be usable, but they’re just keeping the team or the organization in a rut.

There’s nothing new about them. They’re just the same old ideas executed the same old way, getting the same result. And nothing is changing. Ingenuity requires the ability to find novel ideas, but they also must be doable. I’ve sat with some unbelievably creative teams and minds sitting around a table coming up with all kinds of novel creative ideas, most of which are never going to happen. We’re not going to put a zip line from the 19th floor of our building to the nearest Starbucks sounds like a really good idea, but it’s not going to happen. Some teams create a different kind of inertia, because they spend so much time talking about ideas that are not doable.

They’re novel, but they’re not doable when it comes to ingenuity. You want To find and revolve around ideas that are usable, which means they’re both novel and doable, because ingenuity is your bread and butter, it’s your go to skill that you’re going to have to repeat over and over and over again, in a complex system as your solutions fail. You see why that was so important for us to talk about first. So I’ve got to get good at novel and doable ideas at usable ideas, because I’m going to need a lot of them. Number two, ingenuity is the ability to maximize or optimize or cleverly arrange your resources. So that, by that clever utilization, you get your idea moving, you get your idea moving.

In my early 20s, one of my favorite television shows was MacGyver. He was this guy that just sort of roamed around finding these unique situations where he could lend a hand, he was brilliant, he was a genius. And he was clever with resources, he could turn up paperclip into a solution that could stop a World War. And he would arrange all of these different resources into either the object or the solution that he needed. And just in time, he would come up with something that could make the difference. And that, in a sense, is what I mean by the maximizing of your resources, the ability to take what you have, and organize it, configure it, arrange it in a way that allows you to move your early idea forward.

Remember, your early idea might fail because you’re working in a complex system. So you need to be able to inventively arrange and see what happens. And if it works, you keep going. If it doesn’t, you move into that third element of adapting smart and fast adapting smart and fast ingenuity includes the ability to adapt to be adaptive. And of course, now this makes just incredible sense right now that we see that we we work in complex and adaptive systems, it only serves in this sort of logical way that we’re going to have to adapt in that kind of system often because it’s changing on us. So we have to change because of it. Adapting fast and smart holds the tension of speed, and strategy. I call it smart speed or strategic speed.

If you move too fast, without good smarts, without good strategy, you may end up with a lot of redo, undo, or rework. And you may just not have anything valuable to move forward with your solution. But if you tinker too long, and you build and build and redo and build and build and redo and never launch anything, you will get left behind. So this ability to this art form of knowing strategic speed, man, this is trial and error. Ingenuity is the ability to weave these three elements together in real time to find usable ideas. And those ideas then, are launched. With the resources we have.

We arrange them in a clever way. We MacGyver our way forward early. And then we notice what’s happening. As Snowden has revealed for us through his Canarian framework, we notice after the probing and the responding, then we notice what’s happening and we either continue, or we adapt. So we’re MacGyvering our resources to pull off our new idea or solution. And we watch we notice, and we see what’s happening and either we continue because it’s working or we adapt with strategic speed. This to me, is the description the definition of ingenuity in one breath.

Ingenuity is the ability to Find usable ideas and maximize your available resources to get those ideas launched and moving. Notice what’s happening and adapt fast and smart when needed. That is a skill. Every leader I have ever asked, Would you like more of that? Has always resoundingly responded with Yes. So let me ask you, when you think about the work you do every day, would you like more usable ideas better than maximize through available resources? And then when something shifts in your environment, which it’s going to your teams are able to adapt fast and smart? Who doesn’t want more of that?


Now, the $64,000 question. How do you get more of that? And that’s been a big piece of my life’s work.


Helping teams and organizations get more of that, and researching and noticing what teams and organizations do when they get more ingenuity. What are they doing? The Welcome to the ingenuity framework. Let’s explore each of the five elements of the framework