“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
This is the opening line of the very famous poem called Endymion by John Keats, published in the early 1800s.
While this line is intended to set up a beautiful story about timeless romance, the line itself in popular culture has been used in literature, movies, ads and general conversation to describe everything from nature to art to science and more.
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Why? Because Keats did an awesome job of extracting the nuance of something that everyone can relate to — not just love, not just beauty, but timelessness. It’s human nature to want timelessness and sometimes even take it for granted.
Good innovators know when something is going to fail the timelessness test. However, great innovators look at what’s failed or failing and, like a priceless painting unrecognizable from years of dust, extract what’s timeless and work hard to put it into a modern context.
Let’s look at some of the most famous modern innovators and put a label on what timeless element they extracted and modernized.
Steve Jobs (Apple): 24/7 connection to what’s important.
Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook): Social exchange and acceptance.
Jeff Bezos (Amazon): Convenience and time saving.
Travis Kalanick (Uber): Anything on demand, including a job.
Any company that is constantly looking at its products and their applicability to new consumers is practicing good innovation. However, those who can define the nugget of timelessness have a greater advantage.
Pasture (Photo: Thinkstock)
Recently, my colleagues and I have had the privilege of working with the American Fraternal Alliance, and we’re in the midst of an inspiring innovation initiative for what could be considered a dusty corner of the life insurance industry.
(Related: Innovative Thinking v. Innovation: Key Differences Uncovered)
1. Why is it dusty?