What is Innovation?

Innovation is extraordinary problem solving :: David Cutler

Episode Summary

Episode 64 of "What is Innovation?" is out! This time Jared talks with David Cutler, founder and CEO of The Puzzler Company, facilitator of the leading immersive 'GAME of Innovation'. In this episode, they talk about how gamifying innovation works, the many ways that innovation is not always what is seems to be, and why music and innovation naturally work together. How do you tackle an innovation problem from the outside looking in? How can you gamify your innovation but still have some rules? David's insights will help you make your innovation not only playful but strategically powerful to drive solutions.

Episode Notes

David Cutler, founder and CEO of The Puzzler Company, facilitator of the leading immersive 'GAME of Innovation' talks about how gamifying innovation works, the many ways that innovation is not always what is seems to be, and why music and innovation naturally work together. 

More about our guest:

David Cutler, facilitates the leading immersive "GAME of Innovation' where these powerful, team-based experiences have empowered business, arts, and education communities from around the globe to solve creative challenges while becoming better collaborators. He is also an award-winning, multi-genre musician and Yamaha Master Educator.  Cutler is a Distinguished Professor at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches innovation and entrepreneurship, and a member of the Liberty Fellowship and Aspen Global Leadership Network.

Episode Guide:

1:20  - What is Innovation?

3:08 - Extraordinary problem solving: process and gamification

5:40 - What is G.A.M.E?

8:01 - Article: six things kindergarten teachers know that most CEOs do not 

9:43 - Being problem agnostic

1239 - 6 types of non-innovation

1339 - Not imitation

1423 - Not magic

1509 - Not anarchy

16:48 - "Not everything"

17:33 - Not a big a idea

20:35 - Bonus: not an industry - not therapy, and not easy

21:39 - Innovation: Shaping careers

22:15 - Book: The GAME of innovation

2429 - Classical music, Jazz, and Innovation: an intersection

3137 - Innovation and Diversity

3208 - Murder of George Floyd: becoming more inclusive

3412 - Advice to Innovators

Resources Mentioned: 

Books / Articles:


OUTLAST Consulting offers professional development and strategic advisory services in the areas of innovation and diversity management.

Episode Transcription

/This transcript was automatically generated using AI; please forgive any inconsistencies. We are working to provide the correct and more concise copy of the transcript. For urgent need, please send us an email.



Jared Simmons  00:05

Hello, and welcome to what is innovation. The podcast that explores the reality of a word that is in danger of losing its meaning altogether.


Jared Simmons  00:15

This podcast is produced by Outlast Consulting LLC, a boutique consultancy that helps companies use innovation principles to solve their toughest business problems. I'm your host, Jared Simmons, and I'm so excited to have David Cutler, speaker, author, consultant and facilitator. 


Jared Simmons  00:33

David Cutler is known for leading immersive innovation games. These powerful team based experiences have empowered business, arts and education communities from around the globe to solve creative challenges while becoming better collaborators. In addition to being founder and CEO of The Puzzler Company, he is also an award winning multi-genre musician and Yamaha master educator. 


Jared Simmons  00:56

Cutler is a distinguished professor at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches innovation and entrepreneurship, and a member of the Liberty fellowship and Aspen Global Leadership Network. David, thank you so much for joining me on the show today. I'm so excited for the conversation.


david cutler  01:13

Jared, it's so nice to chat with you. I'm looking forward to it as well. 


Jared Simmons  01:16

Great. Well, let's get to it then. Why don't we just dive right in? Tell me what is innovation.


david cutler  01:24

To me, innovation is extraordinary problem solving, (it) is taking the same data and status quo and the way things are the hand you were dealt, and discovering an extraordinary solution out of it. as to think innovation is a process, we often think about the end result. "Oh, well, that was very innovative, that they did that." But for me, I spend most of my time around innovation, focusing on the process, I actually call it a game, a on game of fine the process of innovation and if your game is strong enough, you don't know what will happen at the other end but you're almost guaranteed an innovative result.


Jared Simmons  02:04

Interesting, extraordinary problem solving. I love that and the focus on the process. The gamification, I would imagine, serves a number of purposes. The focus on the process, I really find I get a lot of that because it's easy to, like you said, focus on the end result without thinking about how you get there. If you only focus on the end result, it feels like you could end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater, for lack of a better term. You end up, walking away from a process that works because it doesn't work 100% of the time.


david cutler  02:40

Yeah, I hear a lot of people say, "Well, what kind of innovative solutions that we have here." Like, 'whoa, how are you going to get there?' They're so focused on the what, and they want to skip the journey but the journey's, not only the spectacular part of it, it is the necessary part. We don't have teleportation in the real world and we don't when it comes to innovative design, either.


Jared Simmons  03:03

Right, right.


david cutler  03:04

How to take the walk, you know,


Jared Simmons  03:05

yeah, you do you definitely do. When you talk about extraordinary problem solving. How do you take that and turn that into a process or a game? How does that work?


david cutler  03:16

Well, first of all, I consider any well designed process to be a game, whether or not is particularly gamey. You don't need dice or concept cards in order to effectively solve problems. Yet, there are a lot of benefits of outright, unapologetic gamification. When you play a game, people are accountable to rules and results. They are often willing to be creative and strategic in ways they never would be outside of the game because there's a lot of caution there but this is what the game requires. Well, the problems we tackle might be absolutely serious. People are more likely to discover the remarkable when they're engaged in the process and having a good time, or at least having a meaningful journey. It can be fun, it can be powerful to play that and that leads to better solutions.


Jared Simmons  04:13

I can imagine it would. I heard accountability in what you were saying. I heard a bit about creating almost like psychological safety to be more creative. I could see a game doing that. How did you evolve into this? How did this point of view come about? I imagine you don't just roll out of bed one morning and say I'm gonna gamify innovation.


david cutler  04:35

That's absolutely true. These processes take a long time. Every once in a while you get a eureka moment but innovation takes a long time. I've been running these processes for a long time. Sometimes it would be a couple hours and it would be a couple of days. Sometimes it would be a week but where there's a beginning, middle and end and a problem to solve here's the other teams and they're working maybe there's a cop addition at the end, and for many years, we didn't know what it was exactly that we were doing, is it right? At one point we were calling it a retreat but this is not a spa. Someone said, they went to Summit, they said, I just went to an event, it was more like a spa, yours is more like boot camp. I'm like, 'Okay, well, maybe what we're doing is bootcamp.' We try all these different things that nothing felt right. One day, one of my business partners came up with this. He's like, 'what if we're.... ' I don't even know if he came up with it or I came up with it. That's how it works. Ideas belong to the team. It's like we're playing a game and that made it clear. 


david cutler  05:39

Then as things evolve. Game is actually an acronym that describes it very loosely designed. The framework stands for G - guidelines, A -arena, M-materials and E=-experience. It's very flexible, very quickly. Guidelines, is the first step of the game. It is defining what is this game about. What's the most important problem you're trying to solve? What are the constraints? What are the criteria? What constitutes success before? The solution is what are we even trying to do here, that's the G. 


david cutler  06:14

Then A is arena. That's about what do you have to work with? It's about puzzlers who's solving this problem. Place, where will this problem be solved? And period? How long do you have to solve this problem?


david cutler  06:29

M is about materials, that physical or digital tools that you will use, like I see that whiteboard behind you, that's an example of a material. There are all kinds of materials we use in innovation, game design. 


david cutler  06:41

Then the E is the experience, what exactly happened? What happens first and second, and third and last and everything in between? Again, not we're not figuring out the results, we don't know what the solution is going to be exactly. Think about the questions that will be asked along the way.


Jared Simmons  06:54

Oh, fascinating. What's exciting about that is I love frameworks and principles and all those things. What I really love are simple, elegant frameworks that almost feel self evident. That one is one of those where it almost feels self evident, which shows you how much work and culling and reframing and revising and how much discipline. I'm sure it took (time) to get something this elegant and applicable to the various different types of problems. My brain is just going in 1000 different directions. As I'm thinking through this. As I'm looking at this acronym and the process, it's flashing me back almost to grade school, on the playground, when someone says, let's play tag, or let's play whatever. The question is, you ask Are the questions. six year old, ask another six year old when they say, Oh, we're gonna play this game? Well, how do you play? How do you win? We're gonna go out of bounds. Right? All those same things. So I really love how universal and relatable that framework is.


david cutler  07:57

I love that you're going back to elementary school? Because they really do. No, it's not that about it. I actually wrote an article called six things kindergarten teachers know that most CEOs do not. Hmm. And it focused on some of the value systems and frameworks that you would find in almost any kindergarten structure, and almost no fortune 100 company that might be really helpful, including those companies that are always saying innovation, innovation, innovation, that might really help them to get there. Right,


Jared Simmons  08:27

right. So these are self contained experiences, primarily, the things that that you create for organizations are they typically freestanding things are where they ongoing processes.


david cutler  08:38

So I've worked with all kinds of organizations for a number of types of games, okay. But usually, often what will happen is they'll come in for a given period of time, that's the arena, right? Right. How much time do you have to work with? They say, Well, we got three hours, or we got an afternoon or we got, you know, Monday through Thursday, whatever it is, and then trying to build an experience that works within that. And sometimes it's not a single game, sometimes it's just training. Right? So a number of training kind of workshops. We call them huddles, but training, and then sometimes, you're playing a game with a beginning, middle and an end. And when there's enough time, often I like to do some timeouts. Okay, now we're not playing the game. Now, we're just reflecting on that. Or we're learning a strategy that you can just apply to the game or maybe a game within the game or an activity within the game, something like that. Yeah. So it takes a lot of work to do that. 


david cutler  09:34

But to custom design, that experience depending on who the people are and what kind of challenges they have. And you know, we're we're going to be working in some ways. We're kind of problem agnostic. In a way the problem is everything. In a way the problem is almost irrelevant, right? Doesn't matter if you're in healthcare, or you're in you know, financial advising or your in education or the arts, wherever you are, you know, people are people strategy is, is strategy. So a lot of times the, you know, the client, they're the experts in the content, right? And our job is to figure out the process and often to facilitate that process. I just have to understand enough about really, what is it? And sometimes going in, you know, as an outsider, I ask these naive kind of obvious question, because I don't have the curse of knowledge in their field. So I really, what does that acronym mean? What is that approach, it says is very difficult, but also valuable, I think, for people to spell things out. And to think because if they can explain it to me, they can probably explain it to their colleagues and likes and have clarity around that. So that's a process in itself.


Jared Simmons  10:48

Yes, the problem to your point almost becomes an aspect of the arena not to kind of start to plug stuff into your into your framework. But as you're describing it being problem agnostic, the problem itself becomes part of the sort of parameters of the game, and being able to help people with that naive point of view, the curse of knowledge, I like that. And help them sort of unpack that. That has to be invaluable to client,


david cutler  11:14

you know, that's the very first step is, what problem are you going to solve? Yeah. And so what we want to do this and this, and this, and this, and this is not going to happen, it's not going to happen to focus it. So you know, exactly. This is the issue that we're working with it even to define that problem, in one sense, can take hours, oh, so hard for people to do it. But once you do it, there's great clarity, Angel prior to signals, whether you're there, because Okay, now we know what it is that we're here to do, within the context of this game, or this part of this game,


Jared Simmons  11:47

right. And the patience and humility required to stay in that moment. I've seen, you know, in similar situations, this sort of this shouldn't be this hard kind of thing. Start to settle in with folks as you're trying to help them stay with it. It's just one little sentence. We work on this stuff all day, every day. Why is it so hard to write this sentence?


david cutler  12:11

And you know, that's such a good point. And if you get that, right, if you get the framework, right, it makes the problem solving a lot easier. Yes, you do the work on the front end. But if you don't, and you're like, well, it's just you know, throw it out, we're not going to think too carefully about the wording, then probably you won't solve the problem. That's right. You won't get to innovation.


Jared Simmons  12:29

Yeah. And you won't know where the failure was. No, exactly. Yeah, no, that's exactly right. So extraordinary problems. Often that's what innovation is. Love that. Why don't you tell me David, what isn't innovation?


david cutler  12:42

What isn't innovation? I was thinking about this question. I came up with a list of six things that innovation isn't.


Jared Simmons  12:46

six things, I can't wait. 


david cutler  12:47

That's a lot of things that innovation is love it. Innovation is not technology. So much of the time I hear people talking about the innovation sector or innovation as if it's a synonym for technology. And the truth of the matter is that a lot of technology, of course, much innovation does happen in technology. Look at what happens to every iPhone iteration. Oh, my goodness, it's amazing. Yeah, but not all technology is innovative. And a lot of innovation is not technology. Yes. And so the notion that all the arts, that's not innovation, education, that's not innovation. These are things that fall out of because they're not technology. No, that's, that's not


Jared Simmons  13:30

Oh, you started off with one of my passion areas. So I can't wait for the other five.


david cutler  13:35

I love technology. Yeah. And that might be part of it. But that's not the whole. Okay. Your second one Ready. Ready. Drumroll. Okay. Innovation is not imitation. So I hear from a lot of organizations, you know, while we've been this way, historically, now, we got to change, we got to innovate, we got to do something different. So let's look at what our competitors are doing. Good steps they've taken and I will do those things. And then we will be innovative because we'll be popping that like lemmings, you know, running to. And the thing is, innovation is it's not in a vacuum. It's contextual. So the first time something is tried, it is remarkable. The third time it's still pretty cool. By the 10th time it's commonplace by the 100th time it's all fashion, right? 


david cutler  14:23

Number three, you want another one? I love it. Innovation is not magic.


Jared Simmons  14:29

Oh, man, this is gonna be good. 


david cutler  14:31

There's this idea that innovators are born not made. It says if the Great heavens above opened up and decreed thou shalt be a brilliant innovator. The rest of you pathetic schmucks don't even try life of an average normal See, whatever it is, it is not magic. The truth of the matter is Yes, some people are maybe more inclined with creative ideas or better feedback or better at research or whatever it is. Truth The matter is that innovation is a skill like any other that can and must be cultivated innovators how chops, innovation is not magic. 


david cutler  15:09

Something else it's not; innovation is not anarchy. I hear this often from you know what we want to innovate, we want to think really big. So I'll ask well, that's great. So what kind of constraints do you have around your problem? And be like constraint? No, no, we want to let our imaginations run wild. Like my kids after bedtime, you know? So the truth of the matter is that in order to innovate, you have to have rules, you have to have constraints, you definitely do. I mean, imagine if they were like, Yeah, we need to find, you know, a vaccine for COVID. So no rule.


Jared Simmons  15:50

Anything goes.


david cutler  15:53

Right, there had to be strict structures and guidelines and timings and all those things into place. So we were going to talk about you in this podcast, like, you know, my podcast, what is the innovation, I want to design the really innovative next time, which I do not like? Well, you could do anything? Well, you know, the problem is the past everywhere leads to surprisingly few destinations.


Jared Simmons  16:15

That's great. 


david cutler  16:16

On the other hand, I say, well, here's a constraint, you can do anything you want, Jared, anything you want, that there's one constraint, somehow it has to involve a pineapple, or bowling or something like that. I'm not telling you what to do. But it's got to involve that constraint in some way. All of a sudden, you probably like you're saying your mind has 1000 ideas. Yeah. Cuz there's a constraint, it helps you think in different ways that you probably never would have imagined. Bowling, please don't imagine bowling or whatever it is, right?


Jared Simmons  16:47



david cutler  16:48

Okay, here's fifth one. Ready? Ready. Innovation is not everything.


Jared Simmons  16:52

Oh, my goodness, that is a lot of Yes.


david cutler  16:56

Organization. Well, we're an innovative organization and innovation infiltrates everything that we


Jared Simmons  17:01

do we do.



Not everything needs innovation. Your accounting probably doesn't need innovation, or whatever it is, if you do, you're just creating a lot of you don't have to reinvent the wheel for every single thing you do, right? And when it starts becoming a synonym for everything, like any other word, then it just means nothing, nothing. So true. It either has to mean something at the expense of other things, or it becomes a meaningless buzzword. Hmm. Back to your constraints. Yeah, right. Yeah, innovation, and everything. 


david cutler  17:33

Here's the last one. Innovation is not a big idea. Hmm, big ideas are really important. And we talk a lot in a book that I had that just came out about big ideas, and that being a part of kind of an innovation solution. But in a way, I mean, any creative person can have a big idea. You got to be able to bring it to life. That means you got to pay attention to the details, and you got to get stuff done. So that's some big idea is not going to change the world. You got to do the grunt work, you got to bring it to fruition.


Jared Simmons  18:08

Yeah, I keep waiting for one of these ideas on my whiteboard to jump down and put itself in the market. But they don't that that's


david cutler  18:14

a big idea. If you think of it, it just does itself. Figure that out, you'll be you'll be doing pretty well.


Jared Simmons  18:23

Oh, man, what a list innovation is not technology. It's not imitation. It's not magic. No, it's not anarchy. No, it's not everything. And it's not a big idea. I love that list. There are so many lessons, I feel like the world of innovation, there are lessons to be learned the direct lessons of how to bring innovation to life, the indirect lessons from painful experiences. And what I love about this list is I can look at each one and think of a meeting I was in for a conversation I had that was it innovation. Yeah, exactly. I have had this conversation or been on the receiving end of this conversation at various points in my career. And the innovation is not anarchy. That one speaks to me on a special level, just because a lot of the roles I was in were sort of in the what I call the middle part of innovation, where we've done the ideation and started the process of thinking of what to do next. And there's some people waiting on the other side to take whatever that is, and go make a billion of it. Right. And in the middle is, you know, our team. Yeah. So how do you go from the post it to on the shelf? And that innovation is not anarchy. If I had been as pithy and clever as you I could have saved myself a lot of breath in those years.


david cutler  19:45

A lot of times you're saying they give you the big idea and then just outright make this happen and there's nothing to work with. It's just a three


Jared Simmons  19:52

word, right? Yeah. Or, you know, we're gonna go off and do this for you know, a week and no constraint No, there's no that. And so what comes out? Now, we have to figure out how to put constraints around it, so that it could plug into something. And so bringing the constraints to big ideas that have been generated without constraints is not fun. Now, I'm sure this is something you've dealt with, and probably how you came to such an elegant list,


david cutler  20:23

I would say maybe that's trying to get to innovation without the game. Yeah,


Jared Simmons  20:27

that's exactly what it is. That's why I love this framework, because it it would have saved me a lot of trouble in my earlier years.


david cutler  20:35

Innovation is not an industry that it's not therapy. I don't know whether I'm doing it right. But maybe when you don't get it, right, it just puts you in therapy can be a damaging process. Yes. To be honest with you, even when you have a great process. Innovation is not I didn't put this on the list. But innovation is not easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it right. It's hard work to make that happen. Yeah. But if you do, it can be some of the most fulfilling work you ever experience.


Jared Simmons  21:07

That's why people keep coming back to it, right? That's right. It's hard. It's thankless. There's 1000 tasks for every one thing you get to talk about and show. But when you get that one thing, right, it's just amazing. So I love this list for a number of reasons. And thanks for sharing that. It's going up on the whiteboard, I'm gonna pick out a spot,


david cutler  21:26

maybe it'll jump off and yeah.


Jared Simmons  21:32

Fingers crossed. So I've alluded to a couple of things that came up in my memory from your, your list. How has innovation sort of shaped your career?



Well, you know, I've talked about leading innovation, of course, that's an important part of my career. Yeah, I am an innovator to my core. And although I didn't always know that, but I've always kind of aspired to be the person, if 1000 People looked at the same circumstance or the same problem. And 99 of them came up with the same or very similar conclusion, I always aspired to be the one way to do things differently. And that is I reflect back has touched almost every aspect of my life. 


david cutler  22:15

I'll give you a recent example. And maybe a further away example. Sure. So we recently released this book called The game of innovation, that's about some of the things we're talking about. It's about gamifying, the process of innovation. And the first thing I would say about it is, I mean, people have said before, well, David Cutler is someone who innovates the field of innovation, this was not just a better packaging of the methods that were out there. There's a lot of my own methodology. Not everything is original, I didn't invent brainstorming, that there are a lot of tools in there that really we have developed with my team on fantastic. But in addition to that, and just having original content, I wanted to make it just a different kind of a book. 


david cutler  22:58

A challenge even most of the conventions, I call it the 98% rule, that no matter what industry you're in, it seems like about 90% of people organizations do essentially the same thing. So if you can stand out from that, you can immediately distinguish yourself. So one of the things about books, I it's fair to say that about 98% of books, maybe more are portrait, in other words are higher than their wide. And so that was one thing that we made it landscape, right. So flip the book the other way knife, and this was different than most business books, and certainly then my other books, which were workbooks, I decided to make this a visual book. Right? So would not just talk about innovation, but it would look like innovation, right? I worked with an illustrator, and a graphic designer. So every page looks different. And if we did it well, the images, most people are visual learners, right. So the images help enforce the words and the words help enforce the the images. 


Jared Simmons  24:01



david cutler  24:02

if you take this book, and it's with McGraw Hill, and it's beautiful. They did a great job with it. It's like a coffee table book. If you hold it up with many of the other books that are my favorite books, my favorite business books in the same genre. Yeah, one stands apart because it doesn't look anything like any of the other ones. The other ones all look the same. And this is different. So that's an example of how it plays a role even when I'm writing about innovation. I wanted it to look like a game. Yeah, but I think historically, when you ask about how has it shaped my career shaped me my background we were talking a little before the interview about how we both share background in music. Yes, yes. You know, I don't have a business school background. It's it's in music. That's my training. I started playing piano at a very early age I I honestly can't remember what happened first. music lessons or my mom yelling at me. So, you know, I started even at an early age taking classical piano essence, which taught me the value of attention to detail and the pursuit of excellence and developing an ironclad work ethic, those kinds of things. Yeah. But even back in the day, three years old, four years old, five years old, I'd be practicing my Mozart. Wow. And just mix it up a little bit changing. Rhythms did get better. I don't know if it did, but it was in the eyes of the beholder, right.


Jared Simmons  25:24

That's right. That's right. Wait a better to you. That's right. Yeah.


david cutler  25:27

And my mom would be in the next room. And she'd be you know, David, that's not what it says, David, play, what's on the page, add your vegetables, David. All those things. But there was something inside of me that just had to find my own voice. And that ultimately led me towards jazz and composition, two places where creativity was not only tolerated, but expected. Jazz, you know, it's just music and other kinds of music. But it has such a different value system, my goodness, in a fit in classical music, you get a piece a standard composition, right standard repertoire, we call it and your job is to play it exactly the way it was intended the way some creative genius who is not you by the way, some other creative genius, he lived maybe hundreds of years ago, the way that they intended their notes, their rhythms, their dynamics, when stylistically appropriate. 


david cutler  26:16

In jazz, you also get we use the same word, you get a standard A lot of the time. And your job is to perform it in a way that nobody else ever has before. Right in that way. It teaches you about the values of taking a chance and walking the tightrope, and you know, finding your own voice. Yes, those aspects are both critical. A lot of people big picture thinkers are detail oriented, both are critical to innovation. I'm really grateful to that background, all that was tormenting to always need a guy in both worlds who was doing it wrong and not doing it like everyone else. But it taught me a lot of lessons.


Jared Simmons  26:54

Yeah, yeah. Oh, that's such a great unfolding and description of the differences between classical and jazz and the benefits of each and also the unique sort of challenges in each world. And I think part of it is, with music, you have to dive in, you have to do it wrong, if you want to ever do it, right. Nobody walks up to a piano well, I won't say no one. But I can't imagine someone walking up to a piano and playing anything perfectly. The first time you have license like this implied license to go through a process and to, quote unquote, fail through the process over and over and over again to succeed. But musicians don't look at it as failure. It's not Oh, I failed at playing, you know, this chord change. It's, I'm playing this chord change for the next 1520 minutes until I get it right. But you don't play it perfectly every time you play it. But in the corporate world, people look at, okay, you tried this thing? And it didn't work? You failed.



Yeah, right. You know, that's interesting that I think about what you said. I mean, we were talking before the interview. And you have classical background, too, right? Yeah, no doubt, as a classical pianist. What you're saying I think is definitely true. In the jazz world, where you're working on, you're saying, you know, chord right, in the classical world. And it's just a different value system. The goal, often, and I do work with a lot of musicians, including those from the classical world, and they bring so much to the table. I was tell business people, you want to get something done and get it done. Right, hire a musician, because they pay attention to detail. I mean, who else scrutinizes every aspect of every note from the time that they're two years old? Yeah. But that tradition is about celebrating someone else's vision. And the goal isn't even to play well. The goal is perfection to replicate, yeah, perfection each and every time. And anything less than that is a failure, like you're talking about in the business world. And so, not only are classical musicians not taught to innovate, they're taught to not innovate. That is not the job. Like, is it the creative genius? Is the person that is not you? Right? Where is the composer is the genius, because I'm a composer myself. 


david cutler  29:06

love the notion as a composer that we are omnipotent beings, right? But as a performer, I find that resentful, like, Is there nothing unique to say, now I can fuse those two worlds. And oftentimes, when I'm working on a classical piece, I almost have a rule that, and this can be a metaphor for anyone who listens to anything that happens in their world. Yeah. 98%, I should say, 99.99999. Pretty much most players besides me and maybe one other guy. The goal of classical music is to play it the way it was intended. Yeah. So I have a kind of a rule, at least for me. I always feel like why should I do a job if someone else could do it? If someone else could do an equivalent job, you should I hire them. I should spend my life pursuing the things that I am uniquely equipped to do interesting. 


david cutler  29:54

I play classical music. But a lot of times if I'm going to play a classical piece, in particular He's something that's famous that's been played hundreds of 1000s of times before, I have a commitment coming in to not play it the way that it was intended to a degree, right? And not just subtle changes, you know, tinkering around the edges, right. But to make so that even a lay audience person understands while he played that, but he also had bells on his angles and was using a kazoo. That's probably not what Mozart written on the page. Yet. It's a transformative experience. Right? Right. It's to amplify the intentions of the composer. And sometimes it's to challenge and disrupt those intentions. But to take that lesson from the One World and apply it to the, on the flip sides. And as I play jazz stuff, I just totally work out every little detail. Yeah, and it gets very, very complex and but very thought through. So learning cultures,


Jared Simmons  30:48

it's great to have both skill sets to be able to bring them into the different domains, which I think is a core element of innovation is being able to cross domains with insights, that create something new in that world.


david cutler  31:00

Maybe the most important, or one of the most important elements, is if you want to innovate, you gotta go to someone else. Yeah. So much of the time, we tend to surround ourselves with others who look and think a lot like we do, because it you know, it feels comfortable. We're all speaking the same language, we confirm one another's assumptions. And yet, if you want to get a new idea, you got to go somewhere new. And innovation is really taking an idea from one place and applying it elsewhere. Just which is exactly what you're saying.


Jared Simmons  31:28

Yeah. And I love that diversity is a term that gets thrown around a lot of contexts, like innovation, right? Diversity. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. What is diversity? Your next


david cutler  31:36

podcast? Yeah,


Jared Simmons  31:37

it is. In the context of innovation, diversity is such a deep and rich notion, because you're exactly right. If you want to do something innovative in music, good find musicians and a painter or five musicians and an accountant. Yeah, and see what comes out of it. Yeah, when you focus on the end product more than the process, that's where you can end up with this sort of disruption in tolerance to you know, anything that would disrupt the flow, because we've got to get to this endpoint. And this difference, is slowing us down.


david cutler  32:08

Totally. You know, after the murder of George Floyd, I think a lot of American institutions took a hard look in the mirror and did not like what they found. Latent lack of inclusivity. And since then, thankfully, many organizations have taken at least baby steps to be more inclusive, right. And yet, I think even if successful, that may not be enough, at least if innovation is the goal, because so often, the goal of those initiatives becomes different looking same thinking people, right? Oh, well, that person, their complexion is different than mine. But they share all my basic worldviews about the problem that we're trying to solve. They went


Jared Simmons  32:51

to the same school I went to they say, yeah, yes, I love what you're


david cutler  32:55

saying about, you know, the type of music. I were talking way too much about accountants here, but like two or three days, but five musicians that account well, that's interesting, right? That's a blending of worlds. So it's not just about race, and gender, although that's valuable. But diversity goes to discipline, and beliefs and problem solving styles. I mean, discipline, and age. Right, right. You know, all kinds of things like that and type of job that you have and type of organization, all those kinds of things. Yeah, and the diversity.


Jared Simmons  33:26

And it's both, right. Yeah, the challenge with the way things are being addressed in the last couple of years is that racial, gender, and other types of diversity, that's the end game, that's it. And you can have that and have more humanistic elements of diversity, like, like what you were describing. It brings me back to your original comment about when you focus on the end result versus process, it's really easy to end up with unintended consequences, and more homogeneity than you intend to have, when you take a single lens view of the problem. Amen. Thank you for that. Thanks for talking about that. I appreciate that. Of course,


david cutler  34:04

that's such an important issue.


Jared Simmons  34:06

It is, it really is. It pervades everything, and there's no wrong place or time to talk about it. Moving into that, do you have any advice for innovators?


david cutler  34:16

Well, probably a lot


Jared Simmons  34:19

about you might,


david cutler  34:20

one of the things I hear people talk about individuals and organizations is time management. And time management is important. And you know, when you're building a game, you have an overall length of the game and this much for each of those activities. So it's important in games is important life, all those things. And I think a lot of people have thought a lot about time management is I've gone deeper into life, both for myself and for clients and partners and communities. thought a lot more about project management. Right? Like what problems should we even tackle in the first place? And where should we devote our time? If you could do problem A will help you Whew, five parsecs and problem, whatever parsec is, problem B will help you 12 You should do B. I mean, depending on other considerations and the life, right. And I find that so many organizations and individuals are focused on the less important problem, they'll focus on the nuance over the existential threat. Right, yes, or another part of project management is actually picking problems, I use the word problem for everything. So problem is not a negative term or positive term, like getting married as amazing problems figured out. So some problems are heartbreaking, some problems are super exciting. And some problems are just logistical. But to be able to do that, and the other thing is about finding interlocking projects or problems, so that with each game you go through with each problem that you solve, you're building something bigger, you're making an empire that they go together. And what happens in so many organizations is they solve this problem. And then they solve the next one and almost competes against this one. Right? it dilutes the effort of both, instead of building it even bigger. And I see individuals doing this, for example, when they're trying to make a career model for artists and really in the in the gig culture. Talk about the gig culture and all kinds of industries, where people have multiple income streams. Yeah, there are a whole bunch of reasons why you might want to do that. And it's not for everyone. But for someone like me, and maybe like you, I mean, it's just more fun to have variety and to different networks, different people, different kinds of things that you learn skills and take ideas from one place and put it somewhere else. The biggest problem, a lot of people with portfolio careers is time management, how do you get it all done? How do you keep all those balls in the air? But often what I see with people who do that is each of them is kind of an independent effort. And so they're not building anything over time. So 10 years later, they're doing the same gigs. They were 10 years before, right? They weren't strategic. They didn't build an empire. They didn't build a brand. They didn't build a monument. Yeah, they just did these random things that compete against one another. Does that make sense? It


Jared Simmons  37:13

does. It does. It's kind of like we talked about the through line to a story. Yeah, you can have different plot elements that look desperate. But there has to be a through line that connects everything to ensure progress.


david cutler  37:26

Yeah. So maybe it's the Uber story or the Uber game that car Uber, but overall, yeah, absolutely. You know, what is it you're trying to build? Even if it has lots of different elements? How can you have them a line rather than


Jared Simmons  37:42

dilute? Exactly, exactly. That is fantastic. David, thank you so much for your time. It's been a genuine pleasure and a wonderful conversation. Innovation is extraordinary problem solving. I love that. And thanks again for your time.


david cutler  37:56

Thank you. This has been a ton of fun. All right, take care.


Jared Simmons  38:04

We'd love to hear your thoughts about this week's show. You can drop us a line on Twitter at Outlast LLC OUTLA S. LLC, or follow us on LinkedIn where we're at less consulting. Until next time, keep innovating. Whatever that means.