The Spirit of Innovation
Recently I was at a conference on innovation. In fact I had a hand in the conference even happening. I have not been using the language of innovation and certainly not the language of entrepreneurship until the last few years of my life. I would have guessed they were not relevant to what I was doing in my own career. But to my surprise, when I began to think about it, I realized I have been fairly innovative in my time. I just never called it that.
I have never started my own business and truly would not have thought about myself as entrepreneurial. But I now know I could start my own business if I wanted to do so. Likely, I never will, but I know I could. And so I have this newfound interest in innovation that is really an old interest in new language. I am intrigued by people who are creative and can figure out new things or figure out how to do old things in fresh, new ways. I am sure we live in a time where more people need to be innovative. I may not have too many more years to do this myself. So I spend a great deal of time helping students and younger people learn about it.
One of the speakers talked about innovation in a way that made a great deal of sense to me---maybe it is because it echoes how I tend to describe innovation and innovative people. As he spoke, I thought, “indeed, that is truly the spirit of innovation.” In brief he described innovative people as curious, engaged and passionate. Let’s look at each one of these.
I have to laugh when he began by saying innovative people are curious. I continue to tell students they can be ahead of other people if they simply cultivate curiosity. I know children are curious. I had a couple kids of my own and know they were curious. Of course, we all know that three-year olds are incessantly asking why! I am sure all parents get really tired of answering that question. We know an answer is merely a trap. Once we try to explain why, another question is birthed from their curiosity.
Somewhere along the line, kids seem to lose that curiosity. Schools often get a bum rap because they are blamed for destroying the innate curiosity. I prefer to think maybe it is things like television and maybe the kids’ peer groups. What I do know is people who are innovative are still curious. They wonder about doing things differently. They ask questions. And they are hard to satisfy. They are kids of the spirit of innovation.
The second point the speaker said characterized innovative people is engagement. They don’t go through the motions. They are engaged when they are with other people. They are looking for ways to get better and to grow. They read, meet other people and do many other things. Engagement tends to create purpose and meaning. They have fun. And they may be satisfied with things, but they are discontent with the status quo. They are children of the spirit of innovation.
Finally, the people of this spirit are also passionate. They bring commitment and fire to the task. No doubt, their passion fuels the engagement. And the passion supplies the energy to keep going. Passion can withstand failure and rebound from setbacks. Their passion often is apparent in the persistence it takes to grow and succeed. These kinds of folks are often contagious. They are offspring of the spirit of innovation.
As I have been writing this description of innovative people, it began to occur to me that it also applies to people of the Spirit. I capitalize Spirit to designate the Spirit of God. I am convinced that the life of the Spirit is also an innovative life. It is a creative life. All three characteristics we have laid out also apply to people of the Spirit. Let’s look quickly at this.
People of the Spirit are curious. They are curious where they will be lead in their spiritual journey. Becoming spiritual is not a well-scripted journey. Everyone’s walk with the Spirit is different. God does not call me to do your job. Spiritually, I pursue my curiosity through prayer and other disciplines. I feel my curiosity throughout a lifetime. I am often creating new paths of life for myself.
People of the Spirit are engaged. Of course, I can be Christian (or any other religion) and not be engaged. I can go through the motions. I can live a superficial, status quo kind of life. But real disciples are engaged disciples. We are willing to go for the gusto---to go the second mile, to go where called.
People of the Spirit are also passionate. Hopefully, we are inflamed with the Spirit. The Spirit is often symbolized by fire. This passion fuels a healthy zeal---not zealots who are crazy and dangerous. But we have a zeal that sees us through the journey to the blessedness that comes as a fruit of the Spirit. I hope I can be such a person of the Spirit.