I always grab a book to read when I go on vacation. Something that doesn’t pertain to my work is typically the primary objective and I like it to be printed on actual paper. So a couple months ago on a trip to Florida, I picked up a copy of Steve Martin’s autobiographical “Born Standing Up.” Funny thing is, while it had nothing to do with software development or legal technology, I came out of it full of new ideas. Martin tells the story of his career as a stand-up comic. Where he started and why he stopped. It was funny, but in a completely different way than his stand-up act was funny. More than anything else, it was inspirational and a shrine to innovative thinking. Here are some of my takeaways that can be applied to any innovative business model from “Born Standing Up.”
It takes time to innovate. As Martin explains “overnight success” was only achieved after 10 years of struggling. It takes time to get things right and in the early days you’ll only have fans that really want things to change and improve.
Innovation is a partnership between the artist and the audience. In Martins case many of his favorite bits just didn’t fly. He decided to tuck them away and bring them back later. Don’t keep pushing things that don’t work because you think it’s right. And when an inadvertent act proves funny, keep it in the show.
Leverage your strengths. Martin started off his show business career working in a magic shop at Disneyland. He had a small act of non-comedic magic that he would later leverage in his stand-up act in a very innovative and funny way.
Look for opportunities from set-backs. As Martin stated “stand-up is seldom performed in ideal circumstances” and “the seedier the circumstances, the funnier one can be.”
Steve Martin may be a comedian, a trade many of us think comes naturally, but just like anything else it takes over coming many challenges to be a successful innovator.