Earlier this week, noted philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen passed away at age 65. Like his friend and partner Bill Gates, Allen did far more than change the worlds of technology and personal computing. Rather, he committed himself to providing inspiration and driving positive change throughout the world as a whole. In addition to Microsoft, he helped establish organizations including the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and The Institute for Cell Science.
Allen famously pledged to leave half of his fortune to charitable causes. He also gifted all of us with insights on curiosity, innovation, technology, and the importance of giving back. Here are few choice quotes for professionals looking to embark on bold initiatives of their own.
1. I'm always interested in ways to innovate . . . it's a blend; it's not a focus point.
Paul Allen understood that innovation is not about getting to Point B. For Microsoft, Vulcan, and businesses like them, it's about moving past Point B and driving on past the end of the alphabet. Allen's life is a case study in never-ending innovation, and professionals working through a transformation - or any initiative - would do well to remember his words.
2. Technology is notorious for engrossing people so much that they don't always focus on balance . . .
Though technology obviously played a central role in his life, Allen was not an advocate for the always-on culture or a contributor to the hype around emerging solutions. In business and in life, he encouraged others to embrace new tools while always keeping the bigger picture in mind. Professionals at any level can apply his wisdom to help develop a healthier balance between work and their personal lives. Business leaders, for their part, should keep it in mind as they look to boost retention and blend automation with humanity in their workforce.
3. What should exist? To me, that's the most exciting question imaginable. What do we need that we don't have?
Allen not only encouraged consistent innovation, but boundless curiosity as well. Had he and his colleagues at Microsoft failed to ask big questions and seek bigger answers, there's no telling how different the world would look. Setting yourself apart within an organization (or an industry) is all about finding creative answers to Allen's question. Answering it once, however, is never enough. An important step in this process is recognizing that there's no single answer, but a series of answers that evolves as circumstances change.