The Myths of Innovation and the Full Machiavelli Quote on Change

Last month I posted a quote from Nicolo Machiavelli on change that I had heard in a lecture by Carly Fiorina. I’ve recently picked up the book The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun where he includes the whole quote – which is much more interesting than the subset.

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.

— Niccolo Machiavelli

Aside from finding this gem, this book is excellent – and has provided so much mental relief for me in its reading. So many people I know talk about innovation like its a thing, rather than a series of ideas, experiments and failures that may lead to something great.

Scott describes innovation in the book like this:

The dirty little secret – the fact often denied – is that unlike the mythical epiphany, real creation is sloppy. Discovery is messy; exploration is dangerous. No one knows what he’s going to get when he is being creative.

To which he follows up with:

Creative work cannot fit neatly into plans, budgets, and schedules. Magellan, Lewis and Clark, and Captain Kirk were all sent on missions into the unknown with clear understanding that they might not return with anything, or even return at all.

This is a perfect book for managers all the way up the chain. It documents everything about the creative field that those in it know, and those who manage people in it have been conditioned to forget. If there is one book you pick up this year, pick this one up, read it, give it to your manager, and have him give it to his manager.

A Couple More Quotes on Change

I’m re-reading Persuasion Engineering by Richard Bandler and John LA Valle, after recently taking an “influence and persuasion” training.

I’ve always enjoyed Bandlers work. I saw him speak once and he was entertaining and intense. He is definitely the source of a lot of good quotes on change.

Two of them I hit tonight:

One thing that we learn quickly is a rut.

– Richard Bandler

I really like this one from Virginia Satir:

The will to survive is not the strongest in human beings. The strongest instinct in human beings is to do what is familiar.

– Virginia Satir

I’m on a change kick lately. I think I’m taking a break from everything else, finishing this book, and then hitting “The Art of War by Sun Tzu, which is another book I’ve wanted to reread for a while.

Machiavelli Quote on Change

I heard this Machiavelli quote on the latest edition of the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leadership Podcast, which was a talk given by Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of HP:

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.

– Niccolo Machiavelli

This was an excellent lecture and this quote really stuck with me. Change is hard, people will resist – and in many cases the person who takes the lead in introducing change is seen as an adversary who is trying to “take things away”.

The main thing being taken away, I think, is “comfort”.