In the business world, as in the natural world, the ability to envision and create new things is one of the keys to success and survival. Likewise, the ability to be flexible and adapt to changes is a major factor in deciding between success and failure, winner and loser. The faster new ideas enter the marketplace, the faster change occurs. In fact, innovation and flexibility are directly linked in every conceivable way. Ideas can come quickly or slowly over time; they can be big ideas or small, good ideas or bad. Change occurs in the same way – directly influenced by the nature and scale of the idea which preceded and inspired it. We cannot stop change because we cannot stop the flow of inspiration which drives it. The best we can do is to learn to work within this mechanism to shape our outcomes by learning to shape our ideas and actions.

The secret to success in any particular endeavor, it seems, is to think about that endeavor in a certain way. Some of us are naturally predisposed to this way of thinking about the world and some are not. Some of us are taught at a young age to have this type of outlook while others are not. Some of us learn this way of thinking and being on our own yet most do not. Some people stumble across this reality while the vast majority of people simply stumble. In any event, success is based on what one knows, how one thinks and what they do with that information. We can’t always ensure that what we know is true; and we aren’t always free to do whatever we want with the information that does come to us. The one part of this success equation that we can control is not, “What we think;” rather, it is, “How we think.”

The mental attributes most often alluded to by both titans of industry and spiritual teachers and prophets are the same: Imagination, Optimism and Willingness or Open-mindedness. To succeed in business, you can be first to market with something new, you can deliver the best product or you can sustain your operation longest. A fourth option – cheating – has been proven time and time again to produce the illusion of gain with a very different reality and outcome. Innovative and flexible thinkers can achieve success on all three levels by creating something new and then reacting creatively to the market’s response. Some so-called innovators fall short of true or lasting success by sticking to their vision without conceiving that it could be even better with slight adjustments. This is true of practically all people who fail despite being possessed of genuine talents and gifts. Creative thinkers who lack the ability to adapt and grow are often referred to as, “One-shot wonders.”

Creative thinking will help you get new products to market first if you are first to act. Don’t assume that other people aren’t trying to solve the same problem or create a similar product. Flexible thinking will help you adjust or adapt your designs and strategies to become the best – even if you weren’t actually first. And if you were first, don’t think people aren’t busily trying to improve upon your design or product. They are; and you should be too. But, in this rush to be first and best, consider the tortoise and hare. Sustainability isn’t just a new fringe religion; it’s the new reality. If you focus on short-term gain, that’s what you’ll get; and it is likely that you may not be able to keep up in the long run – turning your story of overnight success into another cautionary tale of some forgotten somebody who created some forgotten something or other. The nature and quality of your thoughts will determine the nature and quality of your product, business and life. And, after all, isn’t quality of life why we do any of it?

If you aren’t a creative thinker, hire one. If you are stubborn and rigid, good luck. If you’re stubborn and rigid and at least somewhat intelligent, you’ll see the long-term benefit of hiring someone with an open and flexible mind to help make your decisions and operations more dynamic and vital. Innovation is not just a sound bite and flexibility isn’t just for muscles anymore. These words represent ways of being in the world which, when mastered, can generate any measure of success and progress. History is a record of the innovators of our past. Some of them were madmen and criminals; but some of them have left lasting legacies of progress, success and humanity. To see what has come before and make it better is indeed a gift. To create something useful that has never existed before is also a gift. Taken together, creation and change describe life. When mastered and applied, innovation and flexibility define and guarantee success.

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