So many times when we think about innovation, we focus on the new. We look to new industries, new ideas, new perspectives for our inspiration. Think about all the magazines touting the newest trends in technology, business, culture, etc.
But to do that we miss out on a huge "field of meaning," as my partner in ministry Eric Foley likes to say. What does he mean by that? Well, as we search for innovation, we tend to look forward only. We feel that only new things can inform the future. This understanding is at the world view level and we don't even know that we think this way. It comes because progress is such a high value for those of us who are products of modernity. We truly believe that success means always pushing forward to new frontiers, new ideas, new realities.
I want to challenge that perspective on innovation today. I believe that some of our best fodder for innovation may come from our past. You see the past does a few things that the future cannot do. The past has not yet committed some of the errors that we have codified. The past can have a very different perspective on things that we now take for granted. Also, the past is sometimes an amazing lens to see the very mistakes and struggles we are mired in today.
Now the past isn't perfect. Every age is rife with ignorance, prejudice, and faulty thinking. But I would like to impress on you that the past is a source on which we can draw for our innovation efforts. It is a rich story that will give us ideas that no tech magazine could ever draw out. And we need every source we can get in order to effectively innovate in the 21st Century.
So here are some ideas:
1. Identify some innovative thinkers of the past and read their biographies.
2. Read history and look for the patterns that inform our world today.
3. Talk to grandparents and great grandparents and ask them questions about how they see the world.
4. When you find yourself assuming that the future is better, catch yourself and challenge your thinking about progress and it's inherent virtue.
So there you go, are you ready to dive into the past? I pray that God gives you some rich sources of inspiration from what He has done throughout history.