In order to have innovative success, you must start long before you need to. That is why exploring and learning new things is so important. Playing with a new language, or a new technology today may not seem to be very useful, but it will become helpful when it turns out that the next generation of business is built on top of it. Email was a messaging system that people used and spent unmeasured energy defining. Was it useful? Absolutely. But it’s not only the successful technologies that are valuable. Clippy, the Microsoft digital assistant gets mocked a lot (and rightfully so), but it was the precursor to modern-day chat-bots that you see on so many sites. Do you know why chat-bots on websites aren’t characterized as digital assistants? Probably because of what we learned from Clippy.
So start learning today. Start doing something that seems useless to your current work. Maybe it will be the foundation for your next big project. Maybe it will be a lesson that informs the innovation that actually gains traction. Either way, we win.
[I think that I got this idea from Dan Ward’s book F.I.R.E. Even if this isn’t where the concept is from, you should still read Dan Ward’s book. It will be worth your investment.] (I don’t have my copy of the book in front of me, so I can’t verify exact details.)