Bill O’Connor, Founder of The Innovation Genome

Bill O’Connor is founder of the Innovation Genome Project within Autodesk. For quick overview, the Innovation Genome is designed to answer, “how does innovation happen, and how do we replicate that so we can get real innovation more often and more consistently?” And if you like our conversation, you should definitely check out the next episode, which is the audio from his presentation to Autodesk University. I’ll put a link to the video in the shownotes too.

Bill’s 30 minute Presentation at Autodesk University 

Bill’s 3-minute Introduction to the Innovation Genome

  1. Set up innovation genome, systematically selecting major, high-impact innovations throughout human history.
  2. 5 major periods of history, 5 major areas.
  3. 5 Areas: Business/Economic, Tech/Scientific, Philosophical/Intellectual, Artistic/Creative, Political/Government
  4. Identified 650 innovations, studied 350. Constantly adding to it.
  5. Innovations happen in clusters, both in specific times and specific places
  6. “Right now, we are facing the widest range of profound emerging technologies that we’ve ever seen in human history. Far beyond the industrial revolution, or even the web or anything like that.”
  7. Middle Ages, aka the Dark Ages actually were a period of great innovation.
  8. The invention of the bow and arrow, and what it can tell us about the power of interconnecting things, and why we don’t innovate.
  9. How many years we humans fought with just a spear instead of a bow and arrow. Way longer than I thought.
  10. If you’re really good at something, you should be worried. “Everything you’re good at…is the spear. Somebody is coming up with the bow and arrow”
  11. “The more expertise you have in one thing, the harder it is to even see or understand the next thing.”
  12. The innovation premium, commonly used by Forbes, and why it makes no sense for ranking companies from most to least innovative.
  13. The stock market is terrible at measuring innovation. It’s always late to the party, and there are a million reasons besides innovation why a company might have a higher premium.
  14. What you can learn from Seinfeld about the power of innovation and asking, “what can I do differently?” aka how Michael Richards (Cramer) saved the show.
  15. If it’s new, it’s going to be bad. And if it’s good, it’s going to be old.
  16. “Good innovators need to have vision and they need to have guts”
  17. How the innovation genome is applied at Autodesk
  18. The Wild and Worldly Matrix
  19. The future of work, and the unique opportunities and challenges the coming technological shift brings. “Learning, unlearning, and relearning.”

His Must-Read Book Recommendations

  1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Rober M Pirsig
  2. The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil
  3. The Golden Age (fiction) by John C. Wright
  4. Up the Organization by Robert Townsend


if you like our conversation, you should definitely check out the next episode, which is the audio from his presentation to Autodesk University. I’ll put a link to his video in the show notes too.


If you want to hear more conversations like this one, make sure you are subscribed to Why Try in your podcast app. You can also find a complete list of episodes at (link), where you can also find writing about mindset, entrepreneurship, investing, and cooking. That’s right, I said cooking. I have a ton of great recipes and I’m putting them on my website for all the world to see and use. That’s

Music for this podcast is by Cambrian Explosion, who went deep-sea fishing off the coast of Japan and accidentally caught the monster of the seas, Leviathan. This scared them shirtless, as it would anyone, and so they sped back to land and flew home the long way to avoid encountering the creature again. You can find their music under Cambrian Explosion on iTunes, Spotify, and

Thanks for listening.

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