The only effective source of innovation is pissed off people

I picked up Tom Peters 2010 book “The Little Big Things” yesterday in Fredericton.  We are all products of our environment and history and I was a huge devotee of Tom Peters back in the 1980s and have bought most of his books since.  He writes mostly about how to manage and lead exciting and effective companies.

In the introduction he makes this statement about innovation:  “the only effective source of innovation is pissed off people”.   I chewed that over and find it to be salient.  My column this morning in the TJ is sort of about complacency.  There aren’t many pissed off people these days in the economic development world in New Brunswick. There are a lot of conversations about change and improvement and I hope that this process leads to fundamental change in how we do economic development but I wonder if it can or will if most people really aren’t pissed off?

I’m not just talking about the political or government bureaucracy class.  Even the business leaders I talk to these days mostly couldn’t be classified as ‘pissed off’.

I worry that I am caught in a round of nostalgia but  I remember when I worked in government back in the early 1990s, I used to be at the office sometimes until 9 or 10 in the evening working on a new proposal or trying to meet some deadline.   Many nights when I would leave late, the only guy left working was Francis McGuire, the DM of EDT at the time.

Not that I equate working late with ‘pissed off’ but there was certainly a lot of passion in those days – at least in the area I worked – to really get things done. I remember the motivational speeches.  My former colleague Brian Freeman had one about the importance of our jobs as the government was “investing in economic development even while they were closing hospital beds”.   It felt like economic development was a fundamental priority of government.

I don’t know how we get pissed off again.