Paul, an independent consultant in the area of innovation, was strolling aimlessly through the streets of a winterly Munich. It had been his last working day before Christmas. He had had a great year and you would have had expected that he would be quite satisfied. But his look was telling a different story.
While strolling around, he had passed probably hundreds of shopping windows, most of them lavishly decorated for Christmas. Yet he started to feel considerably irritated, because in way too many of them innovative or innovation seemed to be the main and ultimate selling arguments.
Innovation seemed to have degenerated into a selling commodity. Into something, whose sole purpose seemed to be to boost consumption. Progress, fired by its innovation-engine, had developed its very own momentum, not caring much whether this progress really served the people or increased their quality of life.
Paul had stopped in front of an electronics store. He saw mobile phones, telecom services, mp3 players, internet games, blu ray players etc. All kinds of high-tech gadgets. Sure, all of them were significant technological innovations, he thought. But then again, did those innovations really help to make our lifes better?
Considering his own last projects, he was wondering whether he himself, hadn’t lost touch with what really mattered. Too much innovation for it’s own sake. And definitely not enough reflection about the effects of them on our life.
All of a sudden a guy with headphones in the ears came around the corner and run almost into him. The guy mumbled a muted sorry and rushed on. “People seem to have no time anymore. Not much desire to talk if it can be avoided. I guess we are all haunted by our to-do lists …” thought Paul.
Thinking about time and to-do lists, a memory of his grandpa came to his mind: Paul must have been around eight years old, when he was visiting his grandpa who was planting potatoes on a field. When he arrived, his grandpa stood aside the field, leaning casually on the spade and chatting lively with a neighbour. They were laughing and seem to have a good time. After the neighbour had finally left, his grandpa had shown him all kinds of things, he needed to know in order to plant a good potato.
“My grandpa always had time and he was at one with the world,” thought Paul. “and my guess is, that back then nobody talked much about innovation. He was wondering whether the hypothesis could be stated, that having a content life and innovation were not necessarily connected? Or may be even not at all? And if so, the question was, what needed to be changed so that innovation could contribute again to a content life?
Paul’s face now showed a quiet smile, for he had a clear idea what needed to be done. He wanted to find an answer to these essential questions! And he even knew where to start searching:
Next spring on the rich soil of his grandpa’s potato field.