I‘ve learned that there’s a difference between being opportunistic and being innovative. Opportunity is known to “knock.” Innovation never does. You have to fire it up.
That’s because we’re usually opportunistic in response to some stimulus. We react well. Often, we’re catching up to something that’s already transpired. We see an opening and we rush through. We hear an idea and we implement it.
Innovation is the creation of new products, services, relationships, approaches (openings and ideas). I call it in my books “applied creativity” (since creativity itself is useless if not pragmatically employed). Innovation comes from within—we provide our own stimuli. And the best way to create innovative new standards is to have a lot of ideas. That’s been the case with all the great innovators, from Ford to the Wright Brothers, from Edison to Jobs. Not all the ideas work, of course. Many are de trop. That didn’t stop them and shouldn’t stop you.
I was opportunistic on my way up the ranks and in finding a career in consulting. But I’ve been an innovator in becoming the thought leader in solo consulting. That’s how you get to the top and stay on top.
If you’re effectively opportunistic, that’s great, but stop patting yourself on the back. Start creating new standards which allow others to be opportunistic through your innovation.
— Flannery O’Conner, Introduction to Wise Blood
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