“Innovators: They don’t just refuse to take the road less traveled – they forge a path that is as yet undefined!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
There are many popular phrases or idioms that become a part of our lexicon of motivation – but with a slight twist or turn, a change in their direction, they can provide us with additional motivation for action.
Such is the case with the popular phrase, “take the road less traveled.” It originated within just a few lines in “The Road Not Taken” by poet Robert Frost, in 1920. It was also the title of a popular motivational book in 1978, authored by American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck.
The idea behind ‘the road less traveled’ is that achievement might best come from taking the less common approach; making a decision that is contrary to popular opinion; forging a route that others might not choose to take. When confronted with a choice, it is often in your best interest to avoid the wisdom of crowds, and pursue your own version of wisdom – in other words, the road less traveled.
And yet, to really innovate, you really should take it one step further – by not only choosing not to take the most common path forward but deciding to forge an entirely new, completely undefined path as well. That seems extremely straightforward in terms of guidance but is extraordinarily hard to achieve, and almost impossible to define.
And yet, the ill-defined path often provides the opportunity for breakthrough innovations and creative concepts that are simply breathtaking in their scope. You can get a sense of the idea with the extraordinary introduction of the iPhone 15 years ago this week. Steve Jobs and his design team at Apple decided that while others were pursuing innovations with small keyboard technology – remember, the Blackberry was all the rage at the time – they would refuse to take that road. Instead, the road less traveled would be something altogether different – and a path that was not yet undefined – with the development and introduction of a touch-screen keyboard. And with that, the future of an entire industry was shifted, and an entirely new path forward was defined.
The same holds true for Tesla today, with the concept of its Supercharger network – while other companies have bemoaned the potential range anxiety of electric vehicles, Elon Musk set out to destroy that concern by establishing a ‘road less traveled’ of charging stations that would allow anyone to drive a Telsa anywhere in North America – which minimal charging time. While everyone was focused on one potential problem, he simply rendered the problem irrelevant. A path that was as yet undefined.
Find your undefined path – and explore it!