innovation

Innovation, Lakota Style

doug-feb1(Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to)

Right now, I’m reading Archie Fire Lame Deer‘s personal history in Gift of Power. I lived in Rapid City for a short time in the late 1990’s, and I’m particularly attracted to the Lakota culture, and the Black Hills and Badlands that are so integral to it. Archie, who died in 2001, became a Lakota spiritual leader after a wild and checkered early life as a hellraiser and Hollywood stuntman. He says:

When a young man learning to be a pejuta wichasa [one type of medicine man] asks my advice, I tell him “Be humble. Accept failure. This is part of being a medicine man. Be aware of the negative and positive in everything. Don’t trust in your own little power, but try to unite many powers into one. And have patience. When you pick one herb among a clump of its own kind, don’t be hasty. Feel. Listen. Then pick the herb that responds to you and gives you a good feeling. If you don’t have the sixth sense to communicate with that one herb, stop right there. Stop trying to be a healer. Become a car salesman or a lawyer.”

To me, this reads like an ancient guidebook for being an innovator:

  • Be humble. Accept failure. You don’t know all the answers. You don’t need to.
  • Be aware of the negative and positive in everything. There is no black and white… your job is to recognize as many of the shades of the spectrum in between… without judgment. And to help others see those possibilities too.
  • Don’t trust in your own power. True innovation, that connects ideas with a context of use where value can be realized, is the product of an interconnected network of people, their thoughts, and their ideas – and the network might even stretch back into history.
  • Try to unite many powers into one. Combine and recombine ideas. Bring the powers together in new ways.
  • Have patience. Everyone knows how great ideas and solutions emerge when you’re in the shower, or relaxing, or doing something other than pushing forward really hard.
  • Feel. Listen. To things people say, and things they don’t say. Data is important, but so is intuition. (Don’t believe me? Just check out some of the academic research on intuition in management, or Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink.)
  • Pick the herb that responds to you and gives you a good feeling. Today’s modern herbs are thoughts, tools, technologies, concepts, and disciplines. Find the tools that you resonate with… the ones that make sense to you, the ones that give you a good feeling. Spend time learning what appeals to you.
  • If you don’t have the sixth sense to communicate with a modern herb, stop right there. Do something else. Moving on is not a failure, but a powerful recognition that you’re on a path to connect with the tools and technologies and ideas that YOU are most powerfully connected with… that you can do something truly magical with.

The more I read this book, the more I can see that the path of the medicine man is one of lifelong learning, one that’s centered around learning how to add value to one’s community — and helping others connect with themselves so that they can accomplish the same.

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