I just finished reading a great book today, How Google Works.
One part of the book talks about innovation, and notes that while most organizations spend a lot of time encouraging people to be innovators, little time, if any, is spent on identifying followers, and the critical role they play in helping new ideas get momentum.
As an example of this concept in action, the authors use a TED talk by Derek Sivers, “How To Start a Movement”. The video shows one guy dancing all by himself at an outdoor concert, but before long, a second person joins in.
Here’s the three-minute video, and you’ll see where the title for this blog came from:
Sivers stresses that if you really want to start a movement, being that first follower is a key role, perhaps even more important than being the leader. It may also be more challenging to be that first follower. Google uses the same analogy when discussing “the primordial ooze of innovation, noting the importance of both the innovator, and the early followers.
I’ve written about followership previously, and noted that perhaps what organizations really need, besides leaders and followers, is “doers”.
I think the authors of How Google Works would agree, since they note several times throughout the book the value it places on having its people getting things done, or as they call it at Google, “ship and iterate”.
So while most of us will rarely come up with something truly creative, most of us likely have the ability to spot something that has the potential to be truly innovative.
The hard part is whether or not you are you are going to take the risk of becoming an early follower and helping that lone nut to become a leader/innovator.