Article by George Baker Sr.
What we are experiencing throughout the current pandemic as family members, friends, colleagues, professionals, citizens and human beings, is conflict. Conflict is frightening and unnatural for us. But also, because of these exact qualities, it is a catalyst for innovation.
My team members are well aware that I often repeat quotes from great thinkers to put the finishing stamp on a thought. I do this with complete faith that the successes and challenges we encounter have been experienced, in some capacity, by others.
The quotes I will share undoubtedly originated from a place of conflict, and they can help structure our way forward during these trying times.
‘Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity — not a threat.’
Let’s forget that this Steve Jobs quote might be considered a cliched reference from a technology entrepreneur and think about its essence. We are preconditioned to view change as a threat. It is an inherently negative feeling. However, if we were not experiencing any modicum of threat in our daily lives, it would be hard to imagine what would drive us.
In more than 20 years serving the parking industry — from striping and sweeping the lots as a teenager to managing parking operations on a national level — I became driven to change it. I understood the issues and inconveniences around parking because I experienced them firsthand on both sides of the operation, and I wanted to solve for them.
‘If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.’
Charles Kettering succinctly sums up what we don’t always want to hear. It can feel unsympathetic to say to people you care about, or even yourself, that change is often for the best. But contrary to every natural impulse within us, we know it is.
Years ago, I saw my industry hampered by outdated processes. I saw consumers frustrated with an experience that was often their first point of contact at a destination. I wanted to challenge the friction that had become the norm and offer a solution. The conflict I felt became the vision for the company I founded and lead today.
‘Innovation is not the product of logical thought, although the result is tied to logical structure.’
A logical approach to dealing with a tough problem is to think about it. Albert Einstein seemed to say in this quote that it just doesn’t work. Innovation is driven by conflict, and it is also removed from it. If we meet a problem by focusing on the problem itself, it limits our capacity to imagine a situation any differently. We remain in the confines of what we know.
An alternative is to create a solution and then tie it back to reason. I created a minimally viable product and shamelessly put it in front of people who might need it. When it turned out they did, they brought valuable insights into how it could be improved. The products I devised are still being iterated on based on clients’ new operational needs and the ever-growing capabilities of my team.
‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’
Fast forward five years, and I am now seeing numerous partners experiencing drastic setbacks due to the pandemic. I am also seeing a burgeoning of innovation across the industries we serve, which brings to mind the words above, which are commonly attributed to Charles Darwin.
As a dedicated partner and professional, I am determined to listen, advise and collaborate to promote our adaptation to change. It’s not a matter of paying it back or paying it forward. It’s just the way I prefer to approach conflict.