Vision and Innovation Come From Seeing Past the Map


There’s a reason Vanity Fair covered Jay-Z. He went far beyond the label of recording artist, blew past the concepts of hip hop and rapper and all those terms that just don’t fit. The man has diverse holdings in clothing lines, in a basketball team, in a liquor brand, in a talent agency for sports professionals, and so much more. Filmmaker Ron Howard even shot a documentary about one of his latest projects, Made in America, a genre busting concert and festival series that sees everyone from Run DMC to Pearl Jam to Skrillix taking the stage, sponsored by a huge brand but promoting the concepts of universal acceptance.

Does any of that sound like what came before? For his genre? Not at all.

Vision and Innovation Come From Seeing Past the Map

And lest you think that the concepts of “vision” and “innovation” are strictly for the likes of Apple and AirBNB, you’re mistaken. If you’re playing from the map of the landscape your business traditionally uses, then you’re missing the chance to see the real territory behind it.

Maps promote what seems permanent (credit card processing has been figured out and is now owned by a few huge companies). The territory shows you possibilities ( Square makes it easy for people to accept credit cards without a fuss and a lot of work). Maps tell you there’s a solid and set way to get there (land in a new city, rent a car or hail a cab). The territory says there are many ways to get there (Uber, Hailo, Lyft, and on and on).

There are so many ways to conceive of this for your business:

  • Map: 9-5 hours.
  • Territory: Hours when people really want you open.
  • Map: Must come in and fill out paperwork.
  • Vision: App-based applications.
  • Map: Circuses are about animals and popcorn and cheap toys.
  • Vision: Cirque du Soleil is about athletics and art and high end.

What are some of the maps you’re seeing right now and thinking about as if they’re the true story? Can you see the territory that underlies this? What opportunities can you find? runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • Brian Del Turco

    Love this – your current map and the territory behind it. Leave the shoreline … poke the edges … explore virgin ground. Big difference between map-readers and life-cartographers.

  • Meg Tripp

    I’m a huge fan of Jay-Z (and his fantastic wife), and I think he’s a hell of a businessman (I’m a business, man!), but is it truly “off the map” to think that basketball, “urban”clothing lines, liquor, and pan-genre concerts can make money with an established rap artist backing them? I think all of those choices are demographically informed and proven to the nth degree, and he’s not the first to do any of them — even within the hip-hop world. He might be the first to do *all* of them, but diversification isn’t new, either. What makes his road so compelling is not the choices he makes, but who he is. You want to take a journey with him — even if it’s not a new one — because he’s freakin’ Jay-Z. Is celebrity endorsement new? Again, proven.

    I also think the examples of Square and Hailo/Uber/Lyft are building on established ideas, but adding refinements that suit different audiences. Tweaking existing principles to engage a new user is also fairly standard practice, as creative as the tweaks may be.

    By these examples, I don’t think you’re positioning innovation as thinking off the map, but rather taking a different vehicle to travel the same path faster or more accessibly or more comfortably.

    When I think about vision, however, I think of inventors/creators who see past and beyond maps — and the only real example I saw of that in your post is Apple, because they’ve invented new categories and forged unprecedented societal norms in the process.

    I think people get intimidated by “off the map” because it feels like everything has to come with an Edison moment … when the reality is that very few successful people create something new or category-transcending or truly visionary. They build on things or push things a bit further or combine things in interesting ways or fix existing things that are broken or package things for a different demo. In other words, most inventors are problem solvers… but not all problem solvers are inventors.

    A world where everyone committed their lives to doing something radical and new would leave us with more loose ends than connections.

    • Patrick1986

      Nice view (vision) of things. I totally agree with you about saying Jay-Z can make things succesful because he is freaking Jay-Z. I am from The Netherlands and even over here I want to be part of the things Jay-Z produces. For example think about the broadway musical Fela! I am no fan of musicals but that one I want to see. So I agree with you on that one. But think about why Jay-Z is freakin Jay-z. That is because he looks different at things and does things different then other rappers.

      In the second part of your message you are saying ‘In other words, most inventors are problem solvers… but not all problem solvers are inventors.’. And I think Chris is telling people to look at things in a different way than the usual way of doing things. Instead of being an innovator like Apple. Opening times are nothing new, but being open when people whant you to be open is doing things in a different way.

      So I think the message of this blog is, when everybody goes left, don’t go left as well (the usual map) but look if there are any opportunities to go in another direction.

  • Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Chris,

    Jigga is a great example. He sees off the grid. The perfect spot to hang, and to look, to become an innovator.



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  • jon_mitchell_jackson

    Love the post. In my industry, old school lawyers had a “map” for how every case needed to be prepared for trial. Written discovery, interrogatories, depositions, expert witnesses… It was time consuming and expensive. After my first couple of trials I noticed that most of this stuff never came up during the trial. I then started looking at the “map” and came to the conclusion that it was drawn by defense firms that bill by the hour. That is, the more busy work they do on a file and the longer they drag it out the more money they made. Fast forward two decades– today, we have eliminated about 90% of this busy work which saves our clients a ton of money and, gets us to trial faster. Maps change and smart explorers understand and embrace this :-)

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  • Roy Munin

    *Skrillex mate.

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  • Madison Z.

    I like how you touched on the importance of innovation, even for small businesses. I think many fail to see the importance, when really this is what sets you apart and essentially makes you more successful than your competition.

  • Liquis Design

    While it’s important to stay focused in certain areas of your business, I love how this post points to why it’s okay (and also important) to spread out. Seeing potential for innovation should be pretty natural for business owners, but there seems to be a level of fear. I feel like this is kind of new territory for businesses to take on new aspects of their business, but with the right plan, this is what will take them to the next level, or at least learn way more than they would otherwise about niche markets in their industry. -Andy

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  • Danny

    Really enjoyed this article about Joy-Z and Skrillix.

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