Discipline: Why Is This A Necessary Skillset For Innovation?

Innovation is the creation of a new solution to deal with a problem, in real time. It is the ability to make good decisions on important matters, with only a small amount of direction. Innovation is a critical skill for the social media era. The scale of social media creates new situations by the minute. New solutions, innovation, are a must to succeed. I believe that innovation is a skill set that can be learned. Discipline is a critical skill set that is needed in order to become an innovative marketer.

This may seem ironic. This may seem like a misnomer. Discipline is a set pattern of doing something. This would seem to be at an opposite end from creative work. In this article, I hope to demonstrate why discipline is critical to innovation. Social media is about hugeness and largeness. It is about speed. It is about dealing with real time. Anyone can create any kind of content. There is an upside to this and there is a downside. The upside is that you can constantly create new content that will constantly engage. The downside is that your opponent can do the same. In our present, real-time era, a marketer must create new content that engages, on the fly, out of nowhere with our customers. Whatever our opponent does, we have to react. This type of championship innovation is done by disciplined people. A bench mark for innovation is the Navy Seals. They create content in real time to delight their customers. To delight their customers, the Seals must react to the content of their opponents. Their customers are American citizens who have been placed in danger. Their opponents are bad people who do bad things to American citizens. Their innovation is created through discipline that they learn in their training.

There are two things about the Navy Seals that everyone knows about; they are very innovative in their operations and they are much disciplined in their training. This is why the Seals are a bench mark in explaining that discipline and innovation go hand in hand.

The recent Bin Laden raid is an example of workers, the Seals, who create fresh content in real time. First of all, they had no idea of what the interior of the house looked like, they had no idea that Bin Laden was even there. They had no idea of what contemporary Bin Laden looked like. The Seals were dealing with a limited amount of information. This is analogous to a contemporary marketing situation because modern marketers have to succeed in areas and times of limited information.

As the operation unfolded, a helicopter failed and crashed in Bin Laden’s court yard. The Seals were able to quickly adjust, enter the house, formulate a plan on the fly, and then locate and kill Bin Laden.

Not every member of Bin Laden’s household died. In a chaotic situation not one Seal died. The reason for this was because the Seals had a plan. Their previous training created discipline that allowed them to understand just how to innovate in a very chaotic situation. To paraphrase a quote from Louis Pasteur, “…in matters of innovation, chance favors the prepared mind”.

What prepared the Seals to be innovative? Their training has taught Seals to stay focused in times of chaos. Seal training and discipline teaches a Seal to focus on what is ahead of them and to focus on objectives.

This discipline teaches a Seal to lock into a problem. This discipline creates a game plan in the mind of the Seal. The game plan focuses the mind of the Seal on the most critical objectives of their operation. The defining of objectives alleviates a lot of the clutter that creates distractions. This allows a Seal to sometimes take a step back and redirect their steps in a chaotic situation, to innovate, to adjust to the circumstances at hand. Discipline, training and focus allow a marketer to adjust their marketing strategy to a new set of circumstances that develop out of nowhere. Training allows a marketer to create in real time.

Marketers do this by constant reading, learning, growing in their field. It is done by knowing things around them. Reading the business press is important. It is important for a marketer to understand the world that is around them. As Steven Jobs says, “innovation is just putting two things together”.

Dean Hambleton